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Overcoming strangeness and communication barriers: a phenomenological study of becoming a foreign nurse


  • H. Magnusdottir rn , bscn, mscn

    Corresponding author
    1. Project Manager, Office of Education, Research and Development, Landspitali University Hospital, Reykjavik, Iceland
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Hildur Magnusdottir, Office of Education, Research and Development, Landspitali, University hospital, Fossvogur 12th floor, 108 Reykjavik, Iceland; Tel: 354-5431424; Fax: 354-5432339; E-mail:


Background:  This paper presents a study that explored the lived experience of foreign nurses working at hospitals in Iceland.

Aim:  The aim was to generate an understanding of this experience both for local and international purposes.

Method:  The methodology that guided the study was the Vancouver school of doing phenomenology. Sampling was purposeful and consisted of 11 registered nurse from seven countries. The data were collected in dialogues; the analyses were thematic.

Findings:  The findings are presented in five main themes that describe the essence of the experience with the overall theme of ‘Growing through experiencing strangeness and communication barriers’. The first theme portrays how the nurses met and tackled the multiple initial challenges. One of the challenges, described in the second theme, was becoming outsiders and needing to be let in. The third theme explores the language barrier the nurses encountered and the fourth theme the different work culture. The fifth then illuminates how the nurses finally overcame these challenges and won through.

Conclusion:  The findings and their international context suggest the importance of language for personal and professional well-being and how language and culture are inseparable entities.