Our doctors share their experiences
pulmonologist from the Dominican Republic and Spain
working in Denmark
ATHALIE originally comes from the Dominican Republic, but has lived in Spain for many years. In 2015, she, her boyfriend and their little son, chose to move to Denmark, when Nathalie got a job offer at the hospital unit, Sygehus Sønderjylland.
“I had thought about moving to another country in some time, but if it should be France, Ireland, Denmark, Australia or another place, I didn’t know. My partner and I looked at a lot of different options, but then I got a nice job offer in Sønderborg. I come from the Dominican Republic, which is also a small country, and I have always lived in small cities close to the sea. It was important for me to find a quiet and calm place – I don’t like big cities. We read a lot about the nature, the art and different other things about Denmark, and both of us thought, that it fits our lifestyle and us well. Therefore, we decided to say yes to the offer and start a life in Denmark, and we are very happy about the decision.”
Job interview and visiting the the hospital
“If I remember correctly, I first had a Skype interview from home with my boss, and afterwards I was asked to come to visit Denmark. On the visit, I talked to my boss, and I was presented to the personnel, my colleagues and shown the hospital. We talked practically about everything, and when I returned to Spain afterwards, the hospital called me and said, that they would like me to come and work at Sygehus Sønderjylland. I told them, that I was interested as well, because it was such a beautiful place and the hospital was big and had a lot of the things that I was interested in working with.”
Shortly after Nathalie had said yes to the job she began the intensive language course at MediCarrera. Before she began, she had a pre-
The language course
“We moved to Calafell in January to begin the intensive language course. It was really intensive for me, because I had some family issues at the time. It was hard. We studied full time, but it was hard to study in the afternoon, because I also had my son who was only one year old. My son is a very active boy, so I had a friend, who joined me at the course centre to help take care of him so I could study a bit more. That way I made it through the course, even though it is hard to study full time when you are a single mother.”
When attending the intensive language course, the doctors are accommodated in hotel apartments near the course centre. “I wasn’t completely happy at the beginning, and I thought about leaving the course and going home. But I talked to MediCarrera about it and they found a solution quickly. If MediCarrera had not found a good solution for me, I don’t think, I would have been in Denmark by now.”
How was the teacher?
“Perfect. It could not get any better. We were doctors from many different countries and we all learned Danish. Thomas was really good, and it was a good education. I think he must be the best Danish teacher in the whole world.”
The Danish language – after arrival in Denmark
“I attend a language school in Sønderborg now but compared to MediCarrera’s language course I don’t learn so much. I began the language school here, because I want to get even better, especially with my pronunciation. I don’t have much trouble with the language and I don’t think the other doctors from MediCarrera do either. I felt really well prepared on going to Denmark – both linguistically and professionally.”
The first week at the new job
“I was nervous. I was scared. I was happy. There were a lot of different experiences that week. But I got a lot of help. My boss was really nice, and she is always good at helping and asking how I’m doing. It was tough since there are many people speaking ‘sønderjysk’ (a dialect of Danish), so it was a bit difficult to understand. But I was together with a nurse who helped me the first day. On the second day I said, that I wanted to work independently, that I would take two patients, the next day three, and after a week I worked on the same terms as my colleagues. If I had problems with the language, I had nurses to join the conversations with the patients and relatives. It was hard, but I wasn’t afraid, so everything went fine. It probably was the hardest week, also because we work with different systems in Spain, that we don’t use in Denmark and vice versa. So I had to get to know the whole IT system and after I started they changed the system again, so I have had to learn two new systems. Regarding the professional tasks, we work with instructions here which make the system safer.”
Work and colleagues
“I am very happy with the job and the hospital. Now I am really happy about my colleagues as well, I have very nice colleagues. In the beginning, though, it wasn’t the same. When you come from a foreign country, you are insecure. Primarily because of the language, but here we also work with another system, the instructions. If you are insecure, you can’t always be happy and relaxed when you are at work. You get stressed. You have to work, work and work more, and only when they are sure, that you are good at what you are doing and make no mistakes, they begin to respect you. Until you demonstrate that, you don’t get looked at the same way as someone who has worked there a long time. But I think that is normal, especially if you are not Danish. So now I’m fine. In the beginning I didn’t understand Danish humour and sometimes I misunderstood my colleagues’ humour, so it became frustrating. I have got to know the humour now so that makes it a bit easier.”
The differences between being a doctor in Spain and in Denmark
“There is a big difference. Here in Denmark I don’t know any health personnel that don’t act responsibly. Everybody arrives on time and everybody leaves on time. They try to do the best they possibly can. Every day you try to get better. Everything has to be perfect here. Sometimes I think it is too hard. I am worried about making mistakes, although everybody is worried about that. It is fine, because that way everybody does his or her best. We think about the patients and speak more with them than they do in Spain. Here it is very valued and important to have a good dialogue with the patients and relatives. If you have to take a half hour conversation, you take a half hour conversation. In Spain you have to work really fast and there isn’t time for conversation, so sometimes the patients are unaware of what is going on. But here there are no problems; you have time to say, what you have to say. We collaborate and I like that a lot. The nurses here are really skilled and have a long experience, so there is trust between colleagues. We have a really fine cancer diagnosis system that is quick and effective. I have never experienced such a quick and effective programme before. We work with all spectres of lung medicine, which I am very happy about. I work with more diverse techniques than in Spain.”
Outside of the workplace – leisure
“I know a lot of women here. I am a part of a group, that is called “Spanish and Latinos in Denmark” and we meet almost every week. We talk together, eat together and we do a lot of activities. I have very good contact with a friend I met on the MediCarrera language course, who also moved to Denmark. I take dancing lessons and attend the language school. I almost don’t have time to relax, but I am happy about that. We have everything, and Copenhagen is only three hours away, so we can drive there whenever we want. It is easy and quick to get from one end of Denmark to the other. We also have a small airport in my city, which is great. Sometimes we drive to Germany since it is cheaper there and you can find some things that you don’t find here. I feel good.”
“My son is in kindergarten and he is super happy! He is beginning to speak Danish. When you look at him, he is always happy. He doesn’t cry, he sleeps with the rest of the kids, he eats well and he is active and spontaneous. The system they have here fits him very well. We are very open minded and not so traditional as many are in Spain, so here it is perfect for him. He is free – if he wants to go out to play in the rain, he goes out to play in the rain. If he feels like dancing, he dances. If he doesn’t want to take his nap in the afternoon, he doesn’t take his nap. He is happy, and that makes me happy.
My boyfriend moved to Denmark a bit later than me. He came here in October and began language school and to speak Danish. He is active with sports, he signed up for Sønderborg Squash club and he plays matches with the team. They meet clubs from different cities in Denmark, so he meets a lot of new people. He goes to dinner with them, but it can be a bit difficult, when you don’t speak Danish or English. We have sent a lot of CV’s out, but many times he doesn’t get an answer, so we think it may take some time. It is a bit unlucky. My boss has tried to help to find some companies, who give good advice on how to find a job. There are a variety of different organisations to help an accompanying spouse in Denmark. We believe that he will find a job, even though it is a bit hard.”
Good advice for other foreign doctors
“In Spain there is a very traditional way of thinking, and maybe many people are afraid to travel and move to another country. But if you have an urge to improve yourself and work in an environment, where people are responsible and are on time, then you should go to Denmark.”
The best thing about moving to Denmark
“I think the best thing is, that I am happy. It is the most important thing for me. It isn’t money, it isn’t work. I have to be happy in the place where I live. It might sound a bit mysterious, but here we have another kind of air. When we breathe here, the air is different. It cleanses you and you can feel the happiness. There isn’t so much sun; we have almost not had any sun the past four months during the winter. When the snow comes, we get happy, and we want to be together. You can feel it. You find small things, that you have never thought about before, like a little sunshine, a little rain, a little snow, it varies so much. I think the nature makes me happy. Of course I am also happy because I have my job, I don’t have any economic troubles, I’m not afraid of getting fired. But also happy about the nature, and you are happy, because you know, that your children are well. There are so many small things that count. You are happy inside. I don’t get stressed here.”
What was hard about moving to Denmark?
“Maybe I am very positive, but I didn’t think it was so hard. It hasn’t been hard for me. I am happy – more than I was in Spain.”