Colchester Hospital University Foundation Trust has hired nurses from the Philippines after interviewing them on Skype, as part of a major recruitment drive to address staffing shortages.
The trust is also seeking to recruit new nurses from European countries including Italy, Portugal, and closer to home from the Republic of Ireland, in a bid to fill 140 vacancies and maintain staffing levels.
Kathy French, deputy director of nursing, said the trust need to fill nursing posts across the board, including in elderly care, and medicine and surgery.
“The nurses are vetted in exactly the same way as they would be if we went out there”
She cited several factors as contributing to the problem, such as a lower than expected number of nursing students taking up jobs and the fact nurses previously recruited from aboard had left.
“We had quite a large number of Spanish nurses come last year but for various reasons there was quite a large attrition,” she told Nursing Times. “Some went back to Spain because they were homesick and some moved into London so we have got a bit of a gap there.”
The trust has now turned to the Philippines having successfully recruited from there in the past, she said.
“We have found the nurses were of a very good calibre and we already have a community of Filipino nurses at the trust to welcome them, and we find they stay,” she said. “A lot of the Filipino nurses we have recruited in the past are still with us.”
The trust hired 27 Filipino nurses after two recent recruitment days where candidates were interviewed over Skype and has scheduled two more sessions in December and January.
“We’re working with an agency which sets it all up in the Philippines,” said Ms French. “The nurses are vetted in exactly the same way as they would be if we went out there, and have to pass recruitment and English tests before they get to interview.”
She said interviewing candidates by Skype was not that different from seeing people face to face.
“We work through the list and it’s just like any other interviews really,” she said. “It has run very smoothly and people were pleasantly surprised.
“The visuals are very good and you can pick up on people’s body language and appearance in the same way as actually meeting someone,” she added.
The trust also hopes to employ up to 60 new nurses from Italy and Portugal over the next few months and is recruiting in Ireland during November.
As part of the recruitment drive, the trust has reviewed the support on offer to new nurses arriving from abroad, said Ms French.
“When they arrive we need to make sure they have suitable accommodation and can do things like open a bank account and get support with those kind of fundamentals, like introducing them to Colchester,” she told Nursing Times.
“It’s also about making sure they feel supported when they go out on the wards – that is one of the key things we’re looking at,” said Ms French.
“It’s a challenge,” she said. “With the number of new nurses we’re hoping to get, it’s about making sure we have people to work with them and ensure that if they need some extra support they can get that extra support.”
The trust is looking at setting up a “buddying” scheme among other options.
As well as bringing in foreign nurses, Ms French said the organisation was ramping up efforts to recruit locally, including promoting return to practice opportunities.
It was also “growing our own”, she noted, by supporting band 4 staff to progress into registered nursing and offering career development opportunities to others in order to retain experience.