Please meet Amanda Love – through her words and pics below. Sisteårs legestudent fra Universitetet i Aberdeen var NSDMs gjestestudent i Tromsø og Finnmark på nyåret og gir et friskt blikk på det gode legelivet som fastlege.
En varm takk for gjestfrihet og flott verskap og veiledning går til Lise Z. Johansen ved Tromsø legevakt, Britt Larsen Mehmi, Ellen Cathrine Steen og andre på legekontoret i Vadsø, Kjell Magne Johnsen og Astrid Teigland med kolleger i Tana og Nesseby, Axel Lupton og Jostein Tørstad i Sør-Varanger og ikke minst Maret Lajla Nedrejord i Karasjok!
*wee brukes mye i Skottland, i betydningen liten
Amnadas egen oppsummering av seks uker
The first thing many people asked me when traveling round the north of Norway: “what are you doing here!?” I came to the conclusion that is was a fair question. To live in Tromso, go to a couple conferences about Recruiting and Retaining GPs then set off happily around Finnmark to hang out with more GPs and be about as useful as a chocolate teapot, is a bit odd. But it is on the whole, one of the most interesting, exciting and just plain cool things I have done to date!
Traveling as a tourist and traveling as a medical student with some purpose have proven to be very different things. The latter means that you get to see real, working life and have normal conversations with locals that don’t just consist of directions. It gives you an appreciation of a place that you can’t get as a tourist. However of course the big factor here is contacts and I was very lucky to be introduced to some very generous, lovely people who made my time more vivid and eventful so that I have memories that will stay with me for a very long time.
Norway immediately emanates vibes of adventure, outdoorsy prowess and a simple but high quality of life. One of the first things I was told about Norwegians when I arrived was that they like simple food which is perfectly captured in the “Matpake”, a source of pride for a Norwegian. This is a packed lunch which usually consists of just a couple of small very simple open sandwiches. A matpake generally has no variation from day to and as far as sandwiches go, is a bit boring. The same could not be said for Norwegians though!…
Getting into the Norwegian groove was not too difficult. Oddly, they eat lunch at 11.30am, dinner at 4pm and then have supper before bed. Working hours are generally 8-3.30 pm, sadly not fitting in with Dolly Partons way of life. However this leaves you with a very long evening which, if I was there in the summer, would definitely feel like the optimal way to live life. Despite the sun not even making an appearance for a couple of months in the winter, you can’t let it keep you from doing you. Cross country skiing is unsurprisingly a common past time and also used as a method of commuting along a specially pisted track that connect different parts of the city or town on an efficient system that reminded me of a bypass. The people are so well adapted to living surrounded by snow, on streets made of ice where the sun doesn’t shine for a few months. It would be difficult to find an underdressed Norwegian and even the elderly get out and about, usually with spikes on their shoes and walking sticks.
From a medical point of view, it was reassuring that the medicine was pretty much the same wherever I went. Although I couldn’t speak Norwegian, having medical knowledge in common was like finding a common language instantly. Traveling to some really remote and sparsely populated places always made me compare with what I know and what I have experienced in Scotland. Much was similar as I have previously said, yet a lot is different mainly to do with the politics, public spending for medical provision and training of GPs. However, that part is quite hard to compare when you don’t know anything about politics in your own country… (let’s not mention Brexit.)
Let me give you some of the highlights of my trip
1.BBQ- ing and sledging Scandinavian style in Vadsø with staff from the health centre. I thought it was amazing that sitting around a fire at -110C could be made to feel so warm. Reindeer skins to sit on, sausage roasting with special sticks, mulled wine and hot chocolate definitely helped. I also discovered that ski blades where not for me. (Basically lethal uncontrollable tiny skis that you strap onto your feet and then pray that you don’t break something before pointing down a hill.
2. The first view of the sun in Vadsø after only a week of shifting between different stages of twilight was very sweet! Someone at the health centre had made “Sun buns” the day before, but it was too cloudy to see the sun then.
However I got my first glimpse of the sun the following day when on the top floor of the health centre trying to cannulate a patient with unknown origin of Sepsis during on-call.
3. I got to accompany this patient with the crew in the ambulance car to Vadsø airport and hand over the patient to the air ambulance staff. This is the fastest way to get a sick patient to the closest hospital in Kirkenes from Vadsø. It was fascinating to see how space in both the ambulance and the plane was used to its full potential.
4. I have to mention going on a wee solo cross-country ski trip at -300C in Tana during a weekend to try and find the arctic sun. It was a very rewarding experience, stunningly beautiful and quiet, surrounded by untouched snow.
5. In Karasjok I was fortunate enough to spend quite a bit of time with one of the doctors and her one and a half year old daughter. I got to try the Norwegian delicacies of Cod fish tongue and King crab! Would definitely recommend them both. It was also -40oC when I first arrived. That was quite something!
6. Also in Karasjok, I went with the same people to feed some reindeer who were down from the mountains to be fattened up. They are very funny creatures and quite curious and cute close up. To learn about the Sami people from a Sami family was fascinating.
7. While in Kirkenes, I went with the lovely people I was staying with to their new cabin in Bugøyfjord. I decided that cabin life is something that I could definitely get into after this trip. We arrived when the afternoon sun was turning the whole area pink. It could not have been any more beautiful and was exactly what I hoped the fjords would look like.
8. What is a trip to the Arctic without seeing Arora? The best view I got of the light show was on my way back from Finnmark to Tromso on the Hurtiguten boat. This also proved that my phone camera could not do her justice!
9. I was worried that I would not get a chance to experience the Norwegian mountains on this trip. However I was so glad that one Saturday I made the most of a beautiful day and took the Tromsø cable car with my supervisor Helen. This gives you stunning views over all of Tromsø and the weather could not have been more perfect with clear blue skies that turned orange and then pink. We walked further into the hills and got views of all the surrounding mountains with impressive ridges covered in its perfect white blanket. This truly is the land of ski touring paradise.
10. The final highlight has to be the chance to experience a small taste of the famous Norwegian Powder in Tromsø Alpinpark on the mainland part of Tromsø. I am not the best downhill skier but I am enthusiastic at least. Despite the weather being very mild and wet a few days previously, the small Alpinpark was open on my last day in the north so I could take full advantage.
To sum up
Over my elective, I have learnt a lot about rural medicine and gained some experience and practice of my own. I have met some great people who I’m sure I will see again, had some very special experiences and fallen in love with Norway. I am determined to come back to Norway for more skiing and hiking adventures and feel like it’s now imperative to share with my friends just how special it is.