Following an eight-year legal battle, the Icelandic Ministry of Welfare has ordered the Directorate of Health to issue a Polish woman license to practice nursing in Iceland.
The woman first applied for her Icelandic license eight years ago, in 2007. She completed her nursing degree in Poland in 1985, and practiced as such in her home country for over 20 years.
She initially applied to be licensed as a nurse’s aide in Iceland, based on her education and experience in nursing. That license was approved, and later the same year she applied for a full nursing license.
That request was rejected on the basis that the woman had not fulfilled all the necessary educational requirements.
She appealed the ruling to the Ministry of Welfare, but was again rejected. At that point she hired a litigator, Kári Hólmar Ragnarsson, to direct her second appeal.
In an interview with Vísir, Kári expressed his surprise at the exceptional length of time the court procedures took, eight years—especially considering the fact that no additional documents were submitted at any point.
“The only thing that needed to happen was for the Ministry to utilize pan-European systems of communication to find out from Polish authorities whether the woman’s education was in accordance with European Union regulations,” said Kári.
At the time of her second appeal, the Ministry of Welfare sent the documents provided by the applicant when she initially applied for the license, to the appropriate authorities in Poland.
They confirmed that her education and experience were in accordance with all European regulations, and that she was licensed to practice nursing in Poland, as well as elsewhere where those regulations apply.
Despite not being a member of the European Union, Iceland is party to many pan-European agreements as a member of EFTA, the European Free Trade Association.
Meanwhile, in the past month, at least 285 nurses and medical technicians have left their positions at Landspítalinn National University Hospital—which in combination with previous vacancies, leaves a total of 335 nursing positions unstaffed.
Last November, Vísir reported the story of Liana Belinska, an Ukrainian gynecologist who, despite living in Iceland since 2003 and speaking fluent Icelandic, has been unable to get her education evaluated, and has therefore worked at a pre-school for the past eight years.
She was first asked to work for free at an ER for a year, as practical training, during which her abilities would be evaluated—an offer which she had accepted, thinking she would be issued a year-long residence permit for completing her BA in Icelandic at the University of Iceland, which was the standard at the time.
However, when she returned from holiday that summer she was told that the laws had been changed and she would only be able to stay in Iceland if she got a paying job.
Then in 2013, Liana was told that she could be licensed to practice medicine if she retook the last three years of medical school at the University of Iceland.
She would, though, still be required to take the entrance exam into the medical school, which she felt was not a fair requirement.
“The exam does not ask questions relating to medicine. I have already completed the full six years, and don’t think I should have to take an entrance exam to retake the last three,” Liana told Vísir at the time.
A large portion of the medical school entrance exam is composed of questions which require extensive knowledge of Icelandic and English linguistics and grammar, as well as of Icelandic history and popular culture.
Applicants are not accepted based on a minimum score, but rather the top 48 scorers on the exam are automatically admitted. Therefore it is nearly impossible for someone who did not receive their secondary education in Iceland to be admitted—even someone who speaks Icelandic fluently as a second language, and is fully qualified to study medicine.