Hailing all the way from the Philippines, Ma Janice Ymbong Silao has been in Iceland for seven years now. As a nurse working night shifts in the intensive care unit, she’s seen quite a bit.
Working the graveyard shift in a hospital isn’t as glamorous as it seems on TV, especially when you’re a newcomer to Iceland. Struggling to find work when she first arrived was difficult, Janice recalls, as most jobs in her field required knowing Icelandic. “When I first came to Iceland there weren’t any jobs for me because at the time I didn’t know the language,” she explains. “Nursing is really my passion, not being able to speak the language well was very hard for me. I cried so many times because I wanted to be a nurse but needed to know the language—that’s why I was striving to learn. I love nursing and helping people, especially sick people. Being there for a patient is very satisfying for me and I love that.”
It can be exciting working nights at Landspítali, like getting paid to be in a haunted house. Janice recalls one particularly spooky night. “The thing is, I’m really sensitive to that stuff,” she says. “When it’s not busy on the night shift, we have time to take a rest. One night I had a headache so the charge nurse allowed me to lie down; this was around four in the morning. I was in a really dark room and the door was closed, when I opened my eyes I saw a man standing in the room with me. I thought maybe it was the charge nurse calling me back from my rest, but when I asked if it was him, he said ‘No!’” This kind of experience isn’t uncommon for Janice however; she claims to have seen a lot of mysterious occurrences at the hospital. “When I’m just in the rooms attending to patients I see a lot of things unexplained,” she says. “I’m not afraid of ghosts here though…when I was in the Philippians it was much worse! I haven’t told anyone I work with—I don’t want to scare them.” She concludes, “When people tell me how creepy it is, I just say ‘I know, I live with it!’”