The Royal Marsden

Celebrating our staff from the NHS Refugee Nurse Support Programme

It’s crucial that the expertise and experience of medically trained refugees aren’t lost to the profession – and a new pilot scheme from NHS England is giving qualified nurses the chance to continue their careers as part of The Royal Marsden team.
Royal Marsden Nurses Sara and Abed, brother and sister, stand back-to-back. Sara is wearing a black hijab and Abed is dressed in blue scrubs.

Royal Marsden Nurses Sara and Abed

The Royal Marsden has recently welcomed six talented international nurses to its workforce, thanks to help from the NHS Refugee Nurse Support Programme. 

The pilot programme is delivered by NHS England in partnership with Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), RefuAid, the refugee charity Reset and Talent Beyond Boundaries. It supports refugees who are qualified nurses to continue their nursing careers in the NHS. 

As well as giving them the chance to stay in their chosen profession, safe from the fear of persecution in their home country, employing refugee healthcare professionals helps NHS organisations meet requirements in areas including workforce supply, equality and diversity, and corporate social responsibility. 

The six Palestinian nurses who joined The Royal Marsden earlier this year had been living as refugees in Lebanon before coming to the UK. They completed a bespoke four-week course, designed by LJMU, to prepare them for working in the NHS. Then they began roles as healthcare support workers at the hospital, with the aim of becoming registered nurses.
A dedicated team at The Royal Marsden, including Nurse Recruitment and Retention Lead Helen Lavell and Practice Educator Peta Hicks, provided support to ensure the nurses felt welcome and settled. 

The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity also provided each nurse with £500 towards their first month’s living expenses. 

Abed, who worked in Accident and Emergency in Lebanon, was inspired to work in nursing after his sister Sara entered the profession. They both joined The Royal Marsden in April. 

“We have six other siblings, so we miss them a lot, but they know how important it is for us to be here,” says Abed. “We live together, which is good, and we are extremely grateful for the contribution of the Charity.”

Moving to the UK gives Sara new options. “If I had stayed, I would never have had the opportunity to progress in my career,” she says. “By being here, I hope I’m able to learn new skills and eventually gain management experience.”

As well as invaluable expertise, Sara’s language skills have also proved useful. “I work on Wiltshaw Ward, where we have a lot of Arabic speaking patients. Being in hospital can be worrying, and I can see how much they enjoy being able to speak to someone who can understand their language,” she explains.

Another of the nurses, Batoul, cared for her father when he was diagnosed with cancer 10 years ago, and brings that experience to her role at The Royal Marsden. She made the difficult decision to leave behind her husband and two young children, but hopes that they will soon be able to join her in London.
“Everyone is so supportive – that’s the most important thing for me,” Batoul says. “Everything I do is for my children’s future, but being away from them is hard. I’m lucky to have so much support. My dream is to continue learning and complete a master’s degree. I wouldn’t have had that opportunity in Lebanon.”

Another new recruit, Ghufran, worked as an intensive care nurse in Lebanon before coming to the UK. Her new colleagues made her feel like one of the team straight away, and her patients have also made her feel welcome, too. 

“Leaving my family was scary,” she says. “But when I talk to patients about why I came to work at The Royal Marsden, they’re really supportive, which is lovely.”