The RFL has been given an award for the support it gives newly recruited nurses and midwives from outside the UK.

The trust has received an NHS Pastoral Care Quality Award thanks to its on-going work in international recruitment and commitment to high-quality pastoral care for internationally educated midwives and nurses (IEMNs).

The award recognises the work the trust does to help IEMNs feel welcome. This starts before they even arrive in the country with information in a handbook pre-arrival including information about the cost of living, salary, pension, staff benefits and general information about London. This is followed up by a second handbook on arrival with more detailed ward/ward manager information and local community information.

Since the start of this year the trust has also introduced a monthly pre-arrival question and answer session on Teams so the cohort of overseas nurses arriving that month can meet with a panel drawn together from members of the education, pastoral care, recruitment and accommodation teams, as well as a member of their recruitment agency, shortly before their arrival in the UK to answer any questions the IEMNs might have.

The RFL is a proud recipient of the NHS Pastoral Care Quality Award

As cost of living continues to rise the trust has recognised this and now provides free accommodation for the first three months - prior to January 2023 this was for two months. Nurses are also given lists of places to look for accommodation and pastoral care nurses are available to visit rentals with them at their request and to help nurses move in and show them where to get cheaper furniture and household goods.

In addition extensive local orientation tours are held for staff living in the same hospital accommodation, helping staff get to know each other by walking and talking together during these sessions. The trust has also set up a work support system in which new IEMN’s are assigned, if possible, to work alongside someone who is also an IEMN, but who has had more experience of living and working in the UK.

RFL’s pastoral care nurses offer practical, emotional and social support and pride themselves on being the ‘go to’ people for any queries, advice or guidance needed. The service is also available for healthcare support workers as well.

Syam Reghunathian, a staff nurse in RFH theatres, said: “The support has been fantastic, both from an education and training point of view to helping us get to achieve the NHS standards in safety, confidentiality and privacy, and also from a personal perspective. I trained in India, spent 18 years working in the Middle East and last year joined the NHS. I found the pastoral care so helpful I have also led an orientation session myself – it feels good to give back and help other people coming over to work here from abroad. I find people in the UK honest and open and the welcome I received definitely helped me settle in.”

Tinsa Thomas and Tenzin Tsokney, also both from India and working as staff nurses in theatres, agreed that the pastoral care had been excellent, helping them to navigate London, make new friends, understand their job role better and break down cultural barriers. But both said that as mothers with young families finding suitable long term affordable accommodation was the biggest issue they were currently facing.

Hannah Gnanadeegan, also from India, is a junior sister on Galaxy Ward at Barnet Hospital. She said: “I joined as a band 5 nurse in March 2022 and found everyone incredibly welcoming, helpful, friendly and positive. I must admit in the beginning I was a bit reluctant to ask for support but without prompting my colleagues reached out and asked me how could they help and I’ve built up really strong professional friendships.

“I’ve now gone up a grade thanks to so much encouragement from the band 6s I work with as I can see how much they want to me to succeed in my career. I’m still in touch with Jerine, my pastoral care nurse. I can truly say I’m never lost for who to ask or who to approach and we have a really strong overseas staff network that the pastoral team have developed. My hope now is to stay in Barnet and start a Masters.” 

Julie Hamilton, group chief nurse for the RFL, said: “We are so proud of all the work that has been done in this area and the success of this project. It has been an important factor in helping us achieve a low vacancy rate, attract and retain talented individuals and help ensure a sustainable and diverse workforce where our international staff have the opportunity to thrive in their personal and professional life.”

For more information contact Cresilda Dagami (07929 789160) RFH, CFH, Edgware Community Hospital, Finchley Memorial Hospital and Jerine Koshy (07929 789159) BH, Hadley Wood Hospital, satellite dialysis units and international midwives.

Main pic L-R: Tenzin Tsokney, Syam Reghunathian and Tinsa Thomas