Being an international nurse was one of the best choices I have ever made. If you are considering doing an experience abroad, I would strongly recommend it. However, you may want to consider a few points before embarking on this challenging undertaking to ensure it is the right choice for you.
There are pros and cons to every decision. In this case, a massive benefit is that, when you work in a different country, you start to realise and understand different systems which you will automatically compare with the one you came from. It opens up your mind, and you are able to pick the best procedures and practices from both systems. In this way, you can improve your skills in a unique manner as well.
Although full of personal development and growth, the life of an international nurse is not an easy journey; it takes a great deal of courage and mental preparedness. When you first move to another country, one of the first hurdles you will encounter is the language barrier, especially in multicultural cities like London, where you have to integrate and mix with many different cultures, each with their own dialect and accent.
Due to the challenges of being an international nurse, many do not stay for the long haul. I first arrived in the UK with a group of 20 people. Three months later, half of them were already on their way back home. In no way do I aim to discourage people; I simply wish I had been warned of the pitfalls and hardships before I actually moved to UK, so that I would have had a much more realistic expectation of what I would experience and would have been better prepared for what I was going to face.
Working with colleagues from all over the world makes your experience abroad richer, but it can also be arduous as you will be confronted with different opinions, perspectives and working styles. Flexibility is key and being able to communicate with each other despite the differences is important. Acceptance and understanding flourishes with time and effort. As is more than apparent to all, nursing is not a normal job, and our textbook education is just half of what we are expected to perform. Nursing involves a lot of interpersonal skills that you learn along the way. I have worked with a diverse team of different cultures and personalities, and each of them has taught me how to accept diversity—a soft skill that I am extremely proud to have developed.
As a nurse, we put the needs of our patients above anything else. Sometimes you can encounter difficult patients—those who look at you with a sense of discrimination and refuse to be treated by you. As a human it makes you feel discouraged, but it is imperative to maintain a high level of professionalism. You must accept their behaviour and deliver the best care possible regardless of their attitude.
Thankfully, you will rarely come across such difficult patients. Most of the time, you will find lovely people, full of gratitude for your hard work, who will share with you their amazing life stories (I have heard so many over the years), along with delicious food from all over the world (definitely a major perk of the job).
There are many support networks and programmes available to help international nurses acclimatise to their new environment. If you come from an EU country, EURES is a fantastic international programme. EURES is a European cooperation network of employment services, designed to facilitate the free movement of workers.
In addition, platforms like Rohme, the Recruitment of Healthcare and Medical Experts, aim to facilitate healthcare professionals’ international recruitment process, with personal assistance from knowledgeable on-boarding specialists who themselves have international experience. Rohme further offers assistance by sharing useful, relevant information both through Nurse News and through free online events with nurse leaders from all over the world; follow Rohme on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn to keep up with the latest events.
If you are considering becoming an international nurse, you will most certainly learn new skills and improve existing ones. But, be prepared for the challenges too. Overcoming the challenges will be the biggest reward and achievement of the entire experience.
Fabio Trovato Monastra is currently the CEO of Rohme. He has 5 years of experience as Deputy Theatre Manager and Nurse, having worked at Highgate Private Hospital and NHS. He initially began his nursing career in Italy, attaining a nursing degree with distinction from University La Sapienza of Rome.