Groups supporting internationally trained nurses have showcased what they are doing to address overseas workers’ greatest concerns.
More than 30 international nursing and midwifery associations (INMAs) representing professionals working in the UK from dozens of countries came together this week in London for an event run by the Florence Nightingale Foundation (FNF).
As well as speaking about the individual struggles of nurses of their particular nationalities, the INMA leaders also presented what they have done with grants of between £5,000 and £12,500 given to them by FNF and NHS England.
Amina Ajembu from the Cameroon Nurses and Midwives Association, one of the grant recipients, said her group had used the funding in part for culturally-sensitive trauma counselling sessions.
Pastoral support like this, Ms Ajembu said, was necessary to both retain nurses from Cameroon as well as protecting their health and wellbeing at work.
She also pointed to some of the work her INMA had done to push for fairer rules on international recruitment, a topic spoken about throughout the FNF event.
Specifically, she aired frustration at internationally-trained nurses being offered jobs lower on the Agenda for Change scale than they are qualified for, just because they are an overseas worker.
Ms Ajembu said: “Cameroon nurses are coming here, as trained nurses, and they’re ending up working as healthcare assistants.
“They work on zero-hour contracts, which is a problem. Our group has contacts from Cameroon who are trained, but offered the wrong job.”
Earlier in the day, England chief nursing officer Ruth May spoke at the event about the importance of “ethical” international recruitment, as previously reported.
Representing the Ugandan Nurses and Midwives Association UK, Elizabeth Pearson said her group had grown from just a handful in 2020 to around 700, in part thanks to funding from the FNF and NHS England scheme.
The expansion of the group meant more nurses could gain vital support, she added, pointing to the 130 overseas nurses from Uganda who died during the Covid-19 pandemic and the strain that put on the community.
Manju Pallam from the British Indian Nurses Association (BINA) said there were “many” opportunities for career progression in the NHS but nurses from her group did not always feel encouraged to apply for them.
“There are thousands, but British Indians need that push to capture them, and BINA stands to support our colleagues to do so,” she told the event.
Other INMAs’ funding has gone on helping new arrivals and continued professional development (CPD).
Felicia Kwaku, from the Nigerian Nurses Charitable Association UK, said her group’s focus had been on career progression for Nigerian nurses and training for those who had recently come to the UK on NHS working policies and culture.
“If you don’t have a safe workforce it can’t deliver high quality care,” Ms Kwaku said.
“Nigerian nurses and other nurses represented by INMAs are disproportionately referred to the NMC.
“There are a lot of concerns around disciplinaries and grievances. So, we have introduced patient safety and safety culture training to help them understand that the UK has different levels of health and safety rules.”
She said it was also important for the group to make its nurses aware of how to spot signs that they are being discriminated against and what action to take.
She noted the case of Michelle Cox, a senior Black nurse from Manchester who recently won a landmark employment tribunal against the NHS following years of racial discrimination at work.
“It’s important we teach our practitioners that so they can recognise when they are not being respected or if they are being asked to work unsafely,” said Ms Kwaku.
Similarly, British Sikh Nurses and the Association of South Asian Midwives, which received joint funding, said their groups had prioritised welcome programmes for trained staff coming from overseas.
Jabu Chikore, trustee of the Zimbabwean Midwifery and Nurses Association, said some members of his group reported finding the adjustment to working in the NHS from abroad difficult.
He explained that the funding his INMA had received went on putting together networking events for Zimbabwean nurses, as well as wellbeing sessions.
Mr Chikore said: “At one point during the pandemic, we lost more Zimbabwean nurses in the UK than we did in Zimbabwe.
“So we want to help the community. We have healthcare professionals coming here and struggling to adjust, so our group has looked at wellbeing too.”
Mr Chikore’s group also managed to, by working with his local NHS trust, secure £200,000 worth of equipment earmarked for landfill to be sent to a mental health hospital in his home country, including beds and other furnishings which were otherwise missing from the site.
All this, he said, came from working and meeting other diaspora within the Zimbabwe INMA.
The event ended with a brief speech by Duncan Burton, deputy chief nursing officer and head of international recruitment.
Mr Burton praised the INMA’s work to improve the lives of overseas nurses in the UK, and called for more “sustainable” recruitment from abroad.