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  • Growing through experiencing and overcoming strangeness and communication barriers : the essential structure of becoming a foreign nurse : a phenomenological study
  • Meistara
  • The research question in this study is ‘What is the lived experience of foreign
    nurses of working at a hospital in Iceland?’ It is conducted in the international
    context of a rise in migration of nurses and the local context of changes from a
    homogeneous towards a multicultural society. The aim of the study is to
    generate an understanding of the foreign nurses’ experience. The purpose is to
    facilitate a constructive international climate and recruitment strategies in
    Icelandic hospitals and to increase knowledge of what it is like to be a foreign
    resident in Iceland. The methodology that guided the study is phenomenology,
    a variation termed “the Vancouver school of doing phenomenology.” Sampling
    was purposeful. The sample consisted of eleven RN nurses from seven
    countries and three continents working at three hospitals. Most of them had no,
    or limited, knowledge of Icelandic at the onset of employment. The data were
    collected in dialogues and the analysis was thematic. The overall findings are
    presented as ‘Growing through experiencing and overcoming strangeness and
    communication barriers’, and five main themes describe the essence of the
    experience. The first theme is ‘Meeting and tackling the initial, multiple and
    unexpected simultaneous challenges.’ It was distressing for most of them to
    start to work in Iceland, also for the nurses from near-culture countries. They
    received support from various people and a quitters-never-win attitude assisted
    them also to persist. The second theme is ‘Becoming an outsider and the need
    to be let in, to belong.’ Having been insiders in their own countries, they
    experienced the troublesome feeling of becoming an outsider. They needed to
    belong, particularly at work. Belonging meant to be valued, accepted and
    trusted and to make Icelandic friends. The third theme is ‘Struggling with the
    language barrier.’ Lack of effective means to express themselves was
    distressing and affected the other domains of their adjustment. Learning
    Icelandic was pressuring even though they received support from colleagues
    and patients. Once they started to speak the language, they encountered the
    problem that their fluency was overestimated and the telephone became a
    fearsome device. The fourth theme is ‘Adjusting to a different work culture.’
    They encountered a work culture that was different from what they were used
    to. Some aspects they appreciate, such as less workload and stress, and more
    equality and informality. Others make them uncomfortable, such as excessive
    individual freedom in practice and insufficient discipline, precision and use of
    protocols. The fifth theme is ‘Overcoming challenges to win through.’ This
    happy turning point commonly occurred after about six months to one year.
    They had overcome most of the challenges they faced initially: achieved
    substantial sense of belonging, become more at ease in the different work
    culture, and could use the language with some confidence. They feel they have
    grown personally and professionally by the experience and half of them are on
    the track of further study. Some hurdles remain such as difficulties in
    establishing close friendships with Icelanders, and less than desired fluency in
    Icelandic. The findings correspond to a difficult but benevolent acculturation
    process. In some aspects, they correlate to findings in similar studies but they
    are different in other aspects. The reasons for the differences might be different
    environment and composition of the samples.

  • 1.1.2004

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