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An innovative programme is boosting exam success enabling internationally educated nurses (IENs) recruited by the Trust to gain UK registration quicker.

Nurses who have qualified in their own country but wish to work in the UK must first pass a series of tests and exams before they can be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

After passing two in their own country (the International English Language test and a computer-based training test), nurses can progress their application to the NMC.

When they arrive at Frimley Health, the last hurdle is the objective structured clinical examination (OSCE). The OSCE is designed to assess ability to competently apply professional nursing or midwifery skills and knowledge in the UK.

In the past, when arriving in the Trust, internationally educated nurses were allocated to wards and given study leave to prepare for the OSCE. The exam took place at any one of three testing centres, each one using different paperwork, which proved confusing and a barrier to exam success. Nurses were given three attempts to pass the exam, waiting eight weeks between each one, while on a limited six-month visa with time running out.

That has now changed.

Frimley Health introduced a three-week boot camp for nurses recruited from overseas. Currently based at Heatherwood Hospital, boot camp provides intensive training for IENs from across the Trust to prepare for their OSCE.

Here they learn all the different nursing skills, set by just one testing centre, that are required by the NMC. The testing centre marks exams based on the Marsden manual, described as the manual of nursing, so our IENs learn their skills ‘the Marsden way’.

Since April 2018, the boot camp programme has been run by Arlene Bautista, the Trust’s lead for IENs. She is supported by Joemar Plamus who himself passed through the boot camp process and now works in practice development at Frimley Health.

Arlene said: “I have found that people from different countries learn differently. Some fly quickly and others take more time but that’s what makes it interesting. We facilitate the boot camp programme according to how they want to learn.

“Our nurses are from different cultures and it’s great to see them supporting each other. We have people from Australia, India, Nepal, the Philippines, Jamaica, Nigeria, Kenya and more. They are all qualified nurses in their own countries - highly trained people – some have been chief nursing officers at home. They have to take a step back to learn to practice and qualify in this country.

“And as their teacher I learn from them too. They are all qualified professional people so I don’t teach them to suck eggs; I teach them the UK way.”

At boot camp the initial part of the OSCE is covered in the first week – assessment, planning, implementation and evaluation for each patient. The second week covers the practical nursing skills section after which a mock exam is set. In the third week the Trust’s corporate induction is covered along with any areas identified as needing further work.

The OSCE exam is taken the following Wednesday. Results are released quickly and once they pass our IENs register with the NMC and are fully qualified band five nurses.

Boot camp is a rolling programme every month meaning 12 cohorts of IENs each year involving nearly 200 in total.

And since it has been introduced the pass rate has sky-rocketed.

Once allocated to wards the Trust’s IENs are supported by the practice development team, allocated mentors and put on a preceptorship programme to achieve all their competencies.

Arlene added: “My job is very hectic but so rewarding. Some of our IENs have given up everything just to get here, selling land, cars and possessions so they can qualify to work in the NHS for Frimley Health. Their loyalty, work ethic and dedication are amazing.”