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Is the NHS ready for non-UK trained nurses?

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As a Portuguese-trained nurse with six years of experience in the NHS, Ismalia asks if all NHS trusts are aware and ready for the challenges they are likely to face with increased immigration

In 2009, after completing a 4 year degree in general nursing in Portugal, I moved to London. I was just 21 years old, newly-qualified, non-UK trained, and working in one of the new Hyper-Acute Stroke Units of an NHS trust.

Crazy or brave!

In May 2015 there were 3,155 Portuguese nurses registered with the NMC, although it isn’t clear how many of these were still working, had returned or moved to other countries. But even if the number of Portuguese nurses still working is unknown, it is still clear that large recruitment of nurses from Portugal has taken place in the UK since 2009.

”In May 2015 there were 3,155 Portuguese nurses registered with the NMC”

Driven by a lack of nurses and a need to fulfil posts, the truth is that there is an increased recognition of the competencies and training education of Portuguese nurses by UK trusts.

After six years working in the NHS, having dealt with professional challenges myself and now having a greater oversight as a senior nurse, I ask myself questions that did not cross my mind when I started working:

How ready is the NHS for large numbers of Portuguese nurses?

How many trusts have induction programmes in place directed to non-UK trained nurses?

How many recognise the extensive competencies already achieved by Portuguese nurses?

But, most of all: How many trusts are ready for immigration and the challenges it can bring?

It was frustrating when I first arrived to be unable to carry out certain skills that I was already compentent in, such as cannulation, venepuncture and administration of intravenous medications. Before graduating, Portuguese nurses spend four years carrying out such skills.

”It was frustrating when I first arrived to be unable to carry out certain skills that I was already compentent in”

Although it took a long time until I was deemed competent (again!) and to regain my confidence in performing these, I was extremely happy when a friend of mine who recently moved to the UK, attended her one day training for cannulation and venepuncture.

It is good to see that changes have occurred in the past six years but are NHS trusts all the same?

When it comes to career progression, band 5 nurses must complete their mentorship before being able to apply for band 6 posts. But options should be in place for those who have already achieved a degree status, want to progress to a Masters degree and undertake their mentorship course as a level 7. Are all NHS trusts offering this choice?

But we must also think about those Portuguese nurses who moved to the UK and have already completed their Masters. Will we offer them a band 5 post with no career progression or a post with a professional development programme that ensures progression to band 6 at the end of six months or one year?

”How many Portuguese nurses who have already completed Masters are employed directly to band 7 posts?”

If nurses at Masters level are expected to be in band 7 posts, how many Portuguese nurses who have already completed Masters are employed directly to band 7 posts?

One thing is certain: if having a mentorship course is essential to be offered a band 6 post or above, for sure we will be losing all those Portuguese and non-UK trained nurses with years of experience, post-graduation courses, Master degrees or leadership skills that are able to make a difference, implement change and improve patient safety in senior nursing posts.

Immigration is a world phenomenon and the NHS as a large healthcare system needs to be able to face the challenges that come with it.

Ismalia de Sousa is a clinical nurse specialist in stroke

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