Supporting Foreign Nursing Staff in the New Job: Tips for Employers on How to Best Organise the First Weeks
by Sandra Jelew, Coach for Intercultural Competence, Business Development & Partnerships Care With Care
A new language, foreign culture, different working style, new tasks and responsibilities, maybe even a different climate, new time zone, and often limited contact with one’s own family and friends: For every foreign nurse a job in a UK hospital or retirement home means many life changes at once. Because of this, foreign employees should ideally receive comprehensive training on working and living practices abroad, before entering the UK. As it is the first few weeks after their arrival that often determine whether the employee is comfortable and wants to stay with the employer and in the UK, it is important to make the first few days and weeks of each foreign nurse’s stay as easy as possible.
We have put together six tips to help employers prepare the core workforce and to integrate new colleagues:
1. Prepare Long-term Personnel
Foreign employees may experience hostility from existing personnel—especially if the team is unprepared. This can quickly lead to a breakdown in communication. Some employees may fear a decline in their working conditions, others may have concerns about communication or the quality of work. The fear of lower pay can also arise. Therefore, it is advisable to inform and prepare all affected employees in advance for the arrival of their new colleagues. Employers should explain to employees the reasons for hiring foreign personnel, highlight the similarities of training and work experience, and discuss the pay scale structure. It is helpful to involve employees in the integration process, too. For example, experienced employees can act as practical trainers.
2. Shared Accommodation for Smooth Transition
It is advisable to employ at least two nurses with similar backgrounds and to initially house them together. A common native language and regular communication will help them to overcome many hurdles and will provide security and support. Housing should be as close to the workplace as possible, preferably within walking distance. Many facilities have staff residences which offer ideal accommodation for the initial phase of acclimatisation. Some employers rent shared flats for their foreign employees. These should be furnished and equipped with cooking utensils, if possible. Ideally, there should also be a washing machine. One of the most important ways to guarantee the wellbeing of new employees is to provide internet access. This should be available from day one as most immigrants will want to contact their families back home to update them and discuss their first impressions. This will help speed up the settling in process.
3. Enough Time to Settle In
Time is a critical factor in the first weeks of acclimatisation. Initially, employers should minimise responsibilities and give employees the opportunity to process their new surroundings. This is necessary as the many life changes can hinder the employees’ ability to adapt to their new environment, especially if they are working abroad for the first time. Ideally, the employer should allow one to two months for the new workers to familiarise themselves.
4. Timetable for the First Three Days
Below you will find recommendations for the first days of acclimatisation of foreign workers:
Day 1: Let them get settled in
Pick them up from the airport/train station personally
Familiarise them with their housing
Provide informational material
Day 2: City and workplace tour
Show them their surroundings including supermarkets, public transport, ATMs, pharmacies, etc.
Introduction to the workplace: a tour of the facility, wards, canteen
Hand over keys and uniform
Support making appointments with local authorities (registration of address, etc.)
Day 3: Introduction to the team and ward
Welcome reception with the team
Tour through the entire ward, including storage, kitchen, etc.
Organisational matters: initial training plan, workflows, operational rules, etc.
Introduction to important contact persons within the company
Day 4: Give new employees the day off to take care of the necessary bureaucratic procedures (e.g. registration of address), furnish their home, explore their surroundings, and reflect on their first few days.
Starting on Day 5: Initial instruction and training, including documentation
5. Support from Leaders and Mentors
For the first two months, there should be a weekly meeting between the new nurse and ward management to discuss the working and training progress, and if and where there are difficulties. To avoid any cultural conflicts, determine which communication channels the nurse should take in the event of disagreements. A new employee should always have the option of a confidential conversation with his or her superior. For questions about the work and procedures within the facility, it is helpful to make a partner available to the foreign nurse. For example, a colleague who fulfils similar tasks can act as a mentor. This way the newcomer always has a contact person at his or her disposal who knows their way around. Ideally, there are already foreign employees in the company who have faced similar challenges on arrival and can give tips. Perhaps there is even a mentor from the same country or who speaks the same native language.
6. Promote a Sense of Belonging
Along with a personal introduction to the entire team, the immediate involvement in events at the hospital or retirement home will strengthen the new employees’ sense of belonging. Supervisors should encourage teams to take new employees to company events or to host a team activity after work. It is also beneficial for foreign workers to engage in internal training from the start. Ideally, employers should support foreign professionals with learning materials to improve their English, organise cross-workplace cultural meetings between foreign nurses, and contact organisations that help with integration, such as church communities and local (sports) clubs.
About Care With Care
Care With Care, a service of Care.com, is an international recruitment programme for the medical and nursing sector. By recruiting highly-qualified nursing staff from abroad, Care With Care supports hospitals, retirement homes and rehabilitation facilities in finding reliable and long-term personnel solutions. At the same time, it enables skilled personnel from countries with a surplus of employees to find a job, and thus, new perspectives abroad. Above all, Care With Care focuses on the careful preparation and integration of the healthcare professionals so they can be permanently retained by employers.