Royal Derby Hospital this week welcomed five refugees who have been working as nurses in Lebanon to give them training and experience to become qualified nurses at UHDB as part of a national scheme spearheaded by NHSE/I.
Ghada El Ayoud, Ibrahim Al-Ali, Ibrahim Tantory, Salah Hussein and Hamzeh Shridi, who are all from Palestine, were all working as nurses in Lebanon, where they were also living in refugee camps with their families – often in poor conditions.
They made the journey to the UK in late March where they initially spent four weeks at Liverpool’s John Moores University undertaking basic training, before moving to Derby to continue their development. Now, following further training at Florence Nightingale Community Hospital, the nurses have begun working clinically on wards at Royal Derby Hospital.
NHSE/I’s Refugee Support Programme provides qualified healthcare workers living in refugee camps in Lebanon the opportunity to embark on a career within the NHS, providing holistic support to help them adapt to life in the UK, as well as seeking to help bring their families here too to help them start a new life. Although the refugees have to re-train to be able to practice as nurses in the UK, they have been able to begin working as Health Care Support Workers at UHDB. Once the nurses achieve registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), they will be offered a permanent full time position within the Trust as a Registered Nurse.
UHDB is one of 11 trusts in the country to be part of the scheme, with the Palestinian refugees forming the fifth cohort of nurses to make the journey to the UK.
Hamzeh Shridi left his wife and two children in Lebanon and is hoping to be reunited with them in September when they plan to move to Derby to begin their new life together.
He said: “I have a wife and two young children back in Lebanon who I am hoping to bring to the UK later this year, and the team here have also helped me to book flights to go back to see them. I send my family pictures and videos and my children are always asking me to show them what Derby is like.”
Salah Hussein said that the decision to move to the UK was a daunting prospect, but one he is relishing: “In the beginning, it is not easy to leave your country and your family, especially during Ramadan, which was an extra challenge. In the first few weeks we were worried about speaking to people about things, but now we’re getting so much better at communicating and everyone here is so friendly.
“This is a new opportunity for us in the UK and I am so happy to be able to work for the NHS. I am always looking for new opportunities to pursue a better life and career and have more human rights, as well as being the best nurse I can be.”
To help with their transition into working in the NHS, our new colleagues will be assigned ‘buddies’ on their wards, as well as oversight being provided by Aldarico Velasco, who has taken on the newly created role of International Nurse Facilitator.
Aldarico said: “We have worked alongside different teams and ensured that not only a structured and personalized induction plan is in place, but the wards are fully prepared and well-informed of the Programme as well.
“To leave their loved ones and to live and work in a completely different environment can be extremely lonely and daunting. I believe they have settled in really well and while they recognise that there is still so much to learn and to experience, they remain open-minded, enthusiastic and committed. I am very proud of them and UHDB is so lucky to have them.”
Ibrahim Tantory said there are many differences between providing patient care in the UK and Lebanon, and that they’re also enjoying finding their way around their new city: “One of the biggest differences between providing care here and in Lebanon is the technology; everything is different. This goes down to things like cannulas, nothing is the same as we’re used to.
“It is very exciting to be starting in our new wards this week as we’ll be doing things we don’t usually get to do when working in Lebanon.
“We really like living in Derby, everyone is so kind. We actually prefer it over Liverpool! We have all got bicycles which we’re using to find our way around, but on our first day travelling from Florence [Nightingale Community Hospital] to Royal Derby, we got very lost!”
As well as providing professional support, the Programme aims to help the refugees settle into life in the UK by supporting them with finding permanent accommodation, opening bank accounts and helping them to integrate with the local community.
Barbara Day, Head of Professional and Practice Development, said: “We have been working with various charities and organisations, including ‘Neighbours for Newcomers’ who help connect refugees in the community. There isn’t a very large Palestinian community in the Derby area so we want to make sure they’re making connections.
“The Trust is providing the nurses with accommodation for the first eight weeks, but we will continue to work with them and local organisations to help them find a permanent home here in Derby so they can continue to build a life here alongside their careers with us at UHDB. We are really excited to see how they grow and develop as we continue to explore innovative ways to continue to recruit overseas nurses.”
Ibrahim Al-Ali said that being given this opportunity “is like a dream” and cannot thank everyone who has helped them to this point: “I want to say a big thank you for everything to the team at Royal Derby Hospital and to my friends who have come here from a bad situation in Lebanon. To come from there to be here in this safe environment is amazing.”
Ghada El Ayoud echoed her friend’s sentiment: “We were lucky here and had so much support and contact with UHDB before arriving for whatever we needed. It has been a very flexible process and we can’t thank everyone enough for everything they’re doing for us.”
Phil Bolton, Interim Executive Chief Nurse, said: “We are absolutely delighted to welcome our new colleagues to the Trust and to be able to offer them this opportunity to pursue a career in the NHS. These refugees have come from a very difficult situation and it is not easy for them to have made the decision to move to another side of the world, so they deserve a lot of credit for what they’re doing.
“This is one of the many new ways in which we’re looking at our staffing models and our future workforce planning in a different, innovative way.”