I have also professionally bloomed into a competent Norwegian-style nurse. I could function as needed in the healthcare system here, which is a big victory given the language and cultural differences! I found out in sink-or-swim style when after my first few weeks of practicum the staff nurses began their summer vacations (everyone qualifies for three consecutive weeks of summer vacation in Norway – usually taken in the month of July). While they attempted to somewhat stagger their vacations, there were at least two weeks with just registry RN’s and a few staff LVN’s. This meant I was often one of the only RN’s on duty who knew how the department functioned and frantically tried to keep the machine oiled and running. I survived! But I sure was glad to see my preceptor and familiar staff faces as they began to show up regularly in report. I now have two weeks left (of three months) of practicum and I’m starting to feel the “senioritis” I remember from high school. Or I’m that rather annoying kid in the backseat – ARE WE THERE YET??
I have to say that one of the most personally challenging aspects of this summer is working without pay because I’m simply not officially recognized as a nurse (once I fulfill requirements stated in my initial denial I can reapply for licensure and then wait six months for a verdict). I suppose I’ve listened too often to others’ forceful surprise at this fact with the familiar comment, “Surely the US has one of the best educational systems in the world.” Perhaps, but it isn’t necessarily endorsed without question. It is deeply frustrating. It sometimes feels like Norway is denying me my identity as a nurse. And while I know they aren’t necessarily telling me I’m incompetent, it is sometimes easy to mix it all up in my head. It is in essence a struggle of selfhood.
But in spite of some of the difficulties this summer – I did receive my payment! He came in the form of a fluffy white-haired, cancer patient, wearing an eye-patch, limping, perpetually smiling and smitten with aphasia from a recent stroke. Despite his difficulty with speech, we somehow managed to communicate. I often knew just what he was trying to say (perhaps because I had recently been there myself – unable to say what I wanted to because I lacked a full Norwegian vocabulary). One day I was the only one who managed to help him with pain relief and he was eternally grateful. He talked about the incident for days. I took care of him almost every day after that and he fondly became “my patient”. One time when he rang the call bell I found him sitting on the edge of his bed thumbing through an old songbook. He motioned to it and I understood he wanted to sing. We belted out “Clementine” together, and he was so pleased. One of my colleagues expressed how I felt about him perfectly, “I could just put him in my pocket and take him home with me.” When he transferred to another nursing home, he fiercely hugged me once before we left his room and again as he got into the waiting wheelchair at reception. I felt like a tiny bit of my heart left with him that day. And yet he was the biggest highlight of my summer – well him and the sunshine!