Home Health & Wellness Integrating Internationally-Trained Nurses Through Culturally Relevant Mentorship in the UK

Integrating Internationally-Trained Nurses Through Culturally Relevant Mentorship in the UK

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“Will you be our mentor, will you be my mentor?” This is why the UK’s international nurse recruitment strategy should consider transition and integration through culturally relevant mentorship.

Reflecting on International Nurses Day brought back memories of the role that mentorship played in my experiences as a nurse and now as a nurse educator. Mentoring university students has enabled a sense of belonging, and academic and career progression. In my view, to truly celebrate International Nurses Day, the nurses we celebrate must feel a sense of belonging through mentorship-based integration that is fostered through policy, strategies, and practices.

Whenever I meet with internationally trained nurses, I feel excited. I recently delivered a training session on public speaking to internationally trained Nigerian nurses. Public speaking is my forte, and standing in front of an audience while being authentic is something I love. Despite my passion for public speaking, I was anxious when I walked into the room with all eyes on me. Soon, it was time for me to speak, and despite my anxiety, the audience made me feel at home with poignant questions that resonated with me as a nurse who has practised clinically in the UK and a Black female in academia (a positively controversial blog for another day). At the end of my speech, I listened to the nurses’ experiences of working in UK NHS hospitals, shared my own experiences, and discussed coping strategies. Some phrases stuck in my mind: “Will you be my mentor, will you be our mentor?”, “How can we keep in touch with you?” These questions permeated the room, and it was a no-brainer for me. By the end of that day, I had facilitated a mentoring platform through a WhatsApp group of now 93 internationally trained Nigerian nurses in the UK. Since then, I have had the privilege of mentoring internationally trained nurses who have shared positive, culture-shocking, and challenging experiences of migrating to the UK.

While the UK government continues its international nurse recruitment campaign, the question remains: “What is in place to mitigate the impact of culture shock and the lack of integration for nurses who trained overseas and migrated to the UK?”

The UK government says: “We recognise the important role that international health and care workers play in health and care service delivery in the UK, and we are committed to ensuring that we recruit from overseas in an ethically responsible manner.” Similarly, NHS England’s nursing workforce and international recruitment states that: “Recruitment from outside of the UK continues to feature as an important part of the workforce supply strategy of NHS organisations”. While ethical recruitment and recruitment strategy might facilitate the transition to the UK for international nurses, it does not ensure their integration into the UK community, where they face persistent challenges in navigating issues including, but not limited to, housing, workplace politics, and language barriers.

As a mental health nurse, nurse educator, and mental health campaigner who migrated to the UK more than a decade ago, I am fully aware of the situational mental health issues (mental health experiences arising from a specific situation) associated with the lack of advice, guidance, and a feeling of “loneliness in the midst of many”. Therefore, it is a privilege to provide mentorship for internationally trained nurses, particularly those trained in Nigeria and generally those from Sub-Saharan Africa.

Still, more needs to be done in terms of transition and integration through mentorship to support this workforce population. My view is that the NHS and government should include mentorship as part of the international healthcare recruitment strategy. Such a mentorship programme should consider the cultural intelligence of the proposed mentor to enable experiential understanding between mentor and mentee.

Some may argue that the nurses decided to migrate to the UK, and as such, it is their responsibility to navigate and integrate into the UK. Yes, but would you not prefer that the staff providing care to “us” have a sense of belonging and knowledge about the country and healthcare system that they are now working in? Indeed, there are differences in healthcare provision between countries, and this should be a key reason for embedding culturally relevant mentorship programmes in the international healthcare recruitment strategy.

Without a sense of belonging fostered through mentorship, individuals might experience anxiety due to feelings of uncertainty and workplace isolation. This is an urgent call for action for a strategy that includes recruiting culturally relevant mentorship programmes in the international nurse recruitment process. By doing this, the feeling of being an “outsider” will soon become the distant memory of being an “insider”. In other words, the same institutions that developed strategies for recruiting international nurses should come together to ensure international nurses feel more welcome and create a sense of belonging at work.


An earlier version of this article was published on Nursing Times.

Dr Josephine NwaAmaka Bardi (RN) is the associate dean for Education and Student Experience at the School of Nursing and Midwifery, London South Bank University. Additionally, she founded the campaign to Raise Awareness of Mental Health in Higher Education (RAMHHE).

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