Even though the context differs between my research and that of Virtanen (1
) and Tjoflåt (2
), it is relevant to compare my findings with theirs. Both Virtanen and Tjoflåt analyse nurses’ experiences from the perspective of preparedness for work in conflict areas. In Finnmark nurses’ work was within the frames of the civilian population, without any special preparedness for work in conflict.
We tend to look at phenomena in terms of dichotomies: war–peace, sick–healthy, enemy–friend. My study shows that everyday life comprises a variety of nuances. In war time, this becomes especially clear and shows the challenges that nurses had to cope with regarding patriotism, nursing ethics, theoretical and experience-based knowledge in a war context.
) points at some unifying values that nurses experience during war: professionalism, love for one's neighbour, religiosity and patriotism. My informants show these values in their stories, as they transform them into practical experiences in daily life.
While different parts of Finnmark County had different war experiences, there were common challenges in coping with shortage of supplies and poor transportation. All nurses who worked in Finnmark during the War were part of the civilian society and thus influenced by local conflicts and how these were met in everyday life in a community with a majority of residents from the occupying forces.
After the war nurses report long-term health consequences in the population, as increased alcoholism and “nerves”. Finne (20
) shows in his theses how these long-term consequences also affect the life of later generations.
Tjoflåt's informants, who served for defined periods in conflict areas, report little or no psychological stress after their term in conflict areas. Preparing for the duty through teaching programs, however short, seems to be important, also debriefing after homecoming. During the War, nurses in Finnmark had no special preparation for the challenges they faced but were required to continue their work as nurses.
As Ruud (3
) points out, there is not always congruence between the official memory about the War and personal recollections. Kinnunen and Jokisipilä (4
) highlight the changes that occur in official memory of war events with lapse of time and also with changes in the political situation. This is also put into words by my informants who were relieved that one could tell the story as it was:
It has only lately become proper to say openly that it was the Russians who freed Finnmark. (Interview E)
Nurses had to use their imagination, act independently and use all their physical and mental strength during this period. Not only were working hours long in an ordinary work situation, they also had to stay on duty for extra time, as with casualties from shipwrecks and bombing raids. They had to use what supplies were available, sometimes old linen or even toilet paper for bandages.
Just like the rest of the civilian population, nurses faced food rations and difficult lodging situation, and were thus exposed to unhealthy conditions that often led to illness. Many nurses were exhausted and happy to step back when they could: “You are young, it is your turn now”.
Nurses who worked in Finnmark and Northern Norway during the war were often misunderstood both during and after the war. Already during the war, there was a view in the southern parts of the country that northerners were too friendly with the enemy. Nurses had to put their personal views aside when nursing German patients. It seems that nursing ethics was considered in everyday work, placing the patient in focus. Regarding injured German soldiers, a nurse said, “They were just young boys”.