In addition to my recent post, Tips for Travel Nursing Abroad, I sat down with a nurse in Sweden who sold his house, car, and belongings to prepare for a long journey with his wife and five children from Sweden to the U.S. There he will challenge the boards and settle into a new life as an American nurse.
My hope is to inspire nurses with children that are hesitantly entertaining the idea of travel, that it is, in fact, possible.
International nursing is not entirely foreign to Anders, a pediatric and neonatal nurse from southern Sweden. Many Swedish nurses travel to Norway where nurses are paid sometimes double and have a lighter patient load. Swedish and Norwegian languages are quite similar, so it easy to communicate effectively. Anders, a calm and pedagogical nurse, described by his coworkers as always happy, positive, secure, and engaged, had some excellent advice to share.
Have you ever worked in another country before?
Yes, I was my own “travel nurse.” I was never connected to a travel company. I traveled to our neighboring country, Norway, for some years.
What are some advantages of working in another country?
One advantage for me was that the Norwegian pay was quite higher. Secondly, I was able to learn that one task/problem could be solved in many different ways. This made me think in more broad terms and allowed me to come up with solutions where other solutions failed.
Where are you headed to next?
I’m heading to Colorado.
Why the U.S.?
It’s been a dream for a long time and it is finally happening. We (my family and I) got a visa and are now “going for it.” When I arrive I will have to take the NCLEX to get licensure. I do really hope and pray that I will get a job in a NICU in Denver.
Making the decision to move to another country and work is a huge decision, especially with a large family in tow. What was the deciding factor for you?
Well, the main deciding factor was in fact that I wanted the best for my family. Living in Sweden as we did with a “stay at home mom” required me to have two jobs with much of my time away from the ones that I love. Moving to Colorado makes us hope (and pray) that I eventually will be able to provide for my family with one job and spend more time with them. Doing this overseas transfer also gives me the possibility to actualize a dream I have had for a long time – to work as an RN in the U.S.
What did you do to prepare for the big move?
Aside from hiring a moving company, selling our house, and getting rid of a LOT of stuff, I quit my job in Norway. My wife and family had to do most of the practical things while I worked to earn as much money as I could to have in our new country. In 2014, I started working toward my goal of achieving nursing licensure in Colorado, which took most of my limited spare time. I also started applying for my visa in 2012.
To get a license I had to have my Swedish nursing education evaluated against the U.S. education system. In addition to that, I had to take a test in English to prove that I can read, write, speak and understand spoken English. When all that was done, I had to prepare for the NCLEX. For a Swedish guy, with 13 years of nursing experience (and before that 17 years working with prehospital care in ambulance) I thought that I would be able to do that in Sweden. Unfortunately, working 5 nights a week left little time to prepare so I failed (close to passing standard). Now, present in Fort Collins, Colorado, I will try to get a job in health care and in my spare time study for the NCLEX. I will hopefully get my license within a couple of months. It has taken a lot of time preparing for the visa application and all that must be done in that process.
Any suggestions/advice for traveling with a family?
Yes, the most important thing is to prepare. The more you can do “back home” before you travel, the better it will be. If you can get a job in your new home country before you move, I think that it will be of great help (could depend on where you are moving). Check out where you are considering living and all that is dependent on that decision such as which part of town, house, apartment, renting, buying, which school you want your kids to attend, a car, which bank for your money etc. etc.
It is better to have a plan and leave as little as possible to wait until you arrive. You can`t plan for everything, but it pays to plan for the big things as I mentioned. It would also be of great help to read about and study your new home country. Depending on what part of the world you are planning to go to, it would be good to know about possible cultural differences or other customs or habits that may vary from what you are used to.
What advice would you give to a nurse contemplating international travel nursing?
Go for it!!! You don`t have anything to lose (but maybe a little pride) and if it does not work out, you and your family can always go back home. You might not even have to be prepared, that was just advice built up from my own experiences. It might be overwhelming and sometimes you might be ready to give up – but don`t. In the long run it will extend your experience in a way that would be impossible to gain in any other way.
Thanks Anders! Best of luck to you and your family! And best of luck with the NCLEX! With years of both ambulance work and pediatric/neonatal nursing under his belt, the unit that succeeds in hiring this Mighty Nurse will be all the better.