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Language requirements for nurses are “unfair”
Kamila Lauritsen from Singapore has been working for one year as a health assistant at the Vesturvón elderly people’s home in Miðvágur.
A fully qualified nurse, having received her training in Singapore and in the UK, she is frustrated about not being able to use her qualifications in the Faroes.
“I really hope that one day I will be able to work as a nurse here. This is currently not possible, and that’s a big problem for me,” she says in near-fluent Faroese.
The reason is that the Danish Patient Safety Authority has set certain language requirements for nurses working in the Danish Kingdom.
“I have passed level 2 of the Faroese as a second language course. To work as a nurse in the Faroes, I need to pass level 3, which is equivalent to eighth-grade standard in Faroese schools. This is difficult for me, and I think this requirement is too harsh for a fully qualified nurse.”
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Kamila’s language teacher, Petra Olsen, agrees.
“To meet her language requirements, Kamila must be able to not only speak about all aspect of Faroese society, culture, etc. but also have an opinion about all this and be able to structure complex arguments about it all,” she says.
“On top of that, she must be able to write essays in Faroese and analyse Faroese poems. These are fair requirements for foreigners who embark on academic studies in the Faroes. But for a fully qualified nurse, many of these requirements seem a bit irrelevant if you ask me.”
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Kamila’s boss at the elderly people's home, Jóngerð M. Nielsen, is also highly critical of how Kamila is treated.
“This is silly. Kamilla, a highly skilled and hard-working nurse, is not allowed to make use of her skills. In a modern society like ours, this really should not be happening – especially considering the vast shortage of qualified healthcare workers.”
This brings us to the question of what can be done about it. Who is responsible?
Not many immigrants will be surprised to hear that there is no simple answer.
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The integration minister is responsible for the general integration element, i.e. ensuring that integration runs as smoothly as possible.
The education minister is responsible for the language part.
And the health minister is in charge of work authorisations in the health sector – but not entirely, as the Danish health authorities have the final say in this matter.
Integration minister Bjarni Kárason Petersen visited KvF’s TV studio on Tuesday evening to answer some general questions about integration with reference to Kamila’s situation.
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“It saddens me to see that many foreign workers struggle to live up to their full potential in the Faroes,” he said.
“It is probably fair to say that the Faroese system is struggling to keep up with the unusually high inflow of immigrants that we’ve seen in recent years. The responsibility is spread across pretty much every ministry, and we are working hard to create an overall plan for how immigrants can thrive in the Faroes."
He added that integration has so far to a great extent been taking place “in silence”, i.e. in schools, daycare centres, sports clubs, etc.
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“It would be immensely helpful if we could have an open, honest and full-scale public debate about the political attitude toward immigrants and integration. I don’t think we have seen much of that so far,” he said.
“All the ministries need to sit down to find a common approach to this ever-increasing challenge. I know I’m stating the obvious here, but I must stress that this really is not a simple matter. There are lots of loose ends that need tying up – we’re talking about fundamental changes to our political system. And that takes time.”
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The minister is in close talks with Danish authorities trying to find ways to adapt some of the relevant Danish laws to Faroese conditions.
He added that last year’s early election and the bureaucratic challenges mentioned above are the main reasons why it is taking so long to come up with a proper integration law.
“We are working on full power across the ministries to finalise our integration bill, and it will most likely be submitted to Parliament this autumn.”
Watch a video clip about Kamila (in Faroese) here.
Translated by prosa.fo.
More Faroese News in English.