Migration for welfare (WELLMIG) Nurses within three regimes of immigration and integration into the Norwegian welfare state

Globalized world, mobility, and bureaucracy

Barriers to mobility and migration do not just affect the nurses that we study. Elżbieta Goździak and Taylor Vaughn write about their own trials and tribulations when faced with Norwegian and Polish bureaucracies.

Seeking a job-seeker visa

After receiving her master’s degree, Taylor decided to apply for a job-seeker visa in Norway on the basis of having graduated from a Norwegian university. This visa would allow Taylor to work and remain in Norway for one year while looking for a job.

She didn’t really need to look for a job as she already had a contract from NOVA at OsloMet to work as part of the WELLMIG team. Unfortunately, the position was a part-time (50%) assignment. One needs to have at least an 80% position to apply for a work visa, but Taylor was optimistic that the job-seeker visa would allow her to continue working with our team. However, to Taylor’s dismay, her application was rejected on other grounds.

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smiling nurse at hospital. photo: colourbox.com

What does it mean to be a nurse?

Being a nurse means different things to different nurses, as experiences shape the professional identity into a part of one’s personal identity. In this sense, the question posed above is a psychological one.

Blog post by Marie Louise Seeberg

A question of national regulations

However, what it means to be a nurse is also very much a legal question. The nursing profession is regulated. This means that “nurse” is a protected title. You can’t just call yourself a nurse even if you feel like one, if you don’t meet the legal criteria.

There is no global definition. Each country has its own criteria. What it takes to fulfil the criteria is based on the content, shape, and size of the country’s own nursing education. This, again, is linked to its history, demographics, and culture.

In WELLMIG, we grapple with this question at all stages of the research. In our project proposal, which also serves as a guideline for the research, we defined “our” nurses as nurses educated in Sweden, Poland or the Philippines who are working as nurses, auxiliary nurses or “unskilled” healthcare workers in Norway. This definition clashes with that of Norwegian authorities, who only recognise as nurses those who have obtained Norwegian nurse registration (“autorisasjon” in Norwegian legalese).

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Older man at nursing home talking to nurse. Photo: colourbox.com

Empowerment in the nursing home

The notion of empowerment might shed a new light on nursing practices, writes Marek Pawlak in a new blog post.

In my ethnographic field research on Polish nurses in Norway, I’m focusing on their personal migration stories, work experiences, and adjustment to the Norwegian health care system. Obviously, these issues vary depending on migration strategies, recruitment arrangements, and particular workplaces, but they all also inform our understanding of the complexity of the Norwegian health care system.

Although some nurses I’ve met during my research work in Norwegian hospitals, the majority of the Polish nurses have found employment in nursing homes (sykehjem) scattered around Oslo. The concept of nursing home, though commonly known and present in many welfare states, seems to be imagined and practiced differently. These differences don’t stem solely from the “usual” case of economic conditions and the state’s policy approach to care of the elderly. The social and cultural understandings of care play a pivotal role in “who,” “why,” and “how” we should be looking after the elderly.

Through various discussions I had with Polish nurses working in sykehjem, it became obvious that in order to understand their work, as well as the differences in the approach to care in Poland and Norway, I myself needed to spend some time in a nursing home and experience it as a place of emerging social relations and cultural meanings.  

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On not getting lost in translation

Marta Bivand Erdal and Lubomiła Korzeniewska write about the challenges of conducting interviews in various languages

As we interview migrant nurses from the Philippines and Poland living in Norway, we reflect on the role language plays in our research. Both of us speak Polish, English, and Norwegian. These abilities position us in particular ways linguistically vis-á-vis the nurses we interview.

Does it make a difference to be interviewed in your mother tongue, or not? Is it different than talking to researchers in your second or third language? Does it matter that you and the interviewer share several languages? And what can we, the researchers, do in order to not get lost in translation, but stay true to what our interviewees tell us? As we conduct interviews, we keep in mind the old adage: “It is important not only what people say, but also how they say it.”

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Train at station. Photo: colourbox.com

A few thoughts on a recent conference

Marie Louise Seeberg shares her thoughts about the 19th Nordic Migration Research Conference.

Researchers go to conferences to present their work, give and get feedback, brush up on the latest developments in their fields of study, learn new things, and get to know other researchers with similar interests.

The Nordic Migration Research Network

As I am writing this, I am on my way back from a conference organized every other year by the Nordic Migration Research network. This conference is organized on a rota basis between the Nordic countries and draws an audience of around 300 scholars mainly from Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark, as well as from other parts of Europe and a few from other continents.

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Illustration, blurry people. Phto: colourbox.com

The roles of migration infrastructure

Jørgen Carling writes about the importance of ‘migration infrastructure’ as a theoretical concept.

Why do specific people migrate to specific destinations under specific conditions? These remain fundamental theoretical questions in migration research, even as the field has expanded to address a much broader range of issues than these fundamentals. And the past half-century has seen successive new takes on this set of questions, reflecting changing trends in social-science theory as well as shifting empirical realities of global migration.

A recent contribution which, in my opinion, holds particular promise is the concept of migration infrastructure. It is of particular relevance to the focus of the WELLMIG project—international nurse migration—in which many social, regulatory, economic and other influences coalesce.

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Nurses training at hospital. Photo: colourbox.com

Playing the role of patients

Izabella Main writes about training for Polish nurses to enhance their empathy.

In the 1991 film The Doctor, William Hurt plays Jack MacKee, a doctor who changes his views about life, illness, and human relationships after being diagnosed with cancer. As Jack experiences life as a patient, he reflects on his relationships with his patients.

When he returns to work, he begins to teach new medical interns about the importance of showing compassion and sensitivity towards their patients, which in turn will make them better doctors. Jack puts the interns in patient gowns, assigns them various illnesses and orders tests for them to “feel” the experience that they will soon put their patients through.

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Male nurse listening to older person at nursing home in the garden. Photo: colourbox.com

Learning the New Ways

Ways of walking, saying, and listening tell us more about the existing hierarchies and power relations in a workplace, Marek Pawlak writes in his blog on different "ways" of nursing in Norway and Poland.

In our research, we focus on nursing practices and lived experiences within different regimes of immigration and integration. It is not surprising that each of the Polish nurses I have met during my fieldwork has a different story to tell.  The field-driven narratives vary in terms of migration decisions, initial expectations, and opinions about the recruitment procedures, including the role of recruitment agencies. However, most of the Polish nurses agree on one thing – that caring and nursing mean “something different” in Norway.

As an anthropologist, I am interested in the notion of “something different” – in its meanings and the social and cultural practices that it entails. It tells us a lot about the ways of caring and helps to problematize ‘taken for granted’ ideas, imaginaries, and understandings. In other words, by exploring nursing practices and experiences, we not only learn about the health care system, but also about what care means in a particular cultural context and how it is embedded in wider social relations.

While pointing out the differences between nursing and caring in Poland and in Norway, many nurses have used the phrase, “I had to learn how to….” This entails both learning how the Norwegian health care system works, and also learning how to practice nursing and caring in new ways.

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Researchers at the Poznan meeting. March 2018. Photo: Izabella Main

The WELLMIG team meets in Poznań, Poland

In early March 2018, our research team met in Poznań to discuss preliminary findings, methodological challenges and successes, and to receive feedback from our Advisory Board members.

We combine different qualitative methods. Some of our research is done by participating at workplaces and other social settings where nurses from the three countries take part. Another substantial part of the research is done through interviews. By now, we have interviewed approximately 60 nurses, including Filipino nurses residing in Norway as well as Filipino nurses in the Philippines, and Polish nurses who have worked in many different parts of Norway.

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The word test in a dictionary. Photo: colourbox.com

A Graded System

Taylor Vaughn and Marie Louise Seeberg write about how both informal and formal rules are different for Swedish, Polish and Filipino nurses who want to work in Norway.

In order for us to better understand and contextualize our ethnographic and interview data, we have begun compiling the information we already know and are finding out about the structural conditions, or regimes, shaping the migration and integration of nurses to Norway. These regimes may be further broken down into formal and informal sets of rules.

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