Mrs Toque dishes out some words of warning to Canadian nurses thinking of emigrating to the United Kingdom.
Britain's health system has welcomed this Canadian nurse into its sickly breast with the same warmth it welcomes a week of rain or a trendy superbug. If I could have foreseen the depth of bureaucratic, systematic failure and rejection I now know, I would have stayed in Canada.
Well GOOD you may think. Britain has enough immigrants already! Our own nurses are out of jobs, and immigrant nurses aren't helping! Well I will raise my glass to that, and toast the government who allowed for this to occur. And to this drink, a brief warning... to other nurses; besotted, ambitious, adventurous, deranged or otherwise... think twice. Or perhaps more kindly (as I do love England really)... expect a cool and skeptical reception.
Here's how it happened
8 months before planned emigration I travel 250 miles to Calgary, the closest British Council-approved language centre, to take an English language exam. This is a prerequisite to nursing registration in the UK. English is my first and only language, and I have a degree from an English speaking University. This does not matter. If I was from Greece (EU) and English was my second language I would not be required to sit this English language exam. This is 7 hour exam including reading, writing, listening, and speaking. As speaking is the last test, in accordance with English tradition, I have several pints at a pub during the interval. Astonishingly six weeks later I receive a letter stating that I have passed with flying colours, accompanied by a certificate verifying my near flawless competence in English, my first and only language. Mr. Toque posts the certificate on the wall and threatens to frame it. Cost: £150 + petrol for a 500 mile round trip.
5 months pre-emigration I receive my UK Nursing registration pack requiring written references, job histories, etc. These documents I completed in full and posted to the NMC. Officially the NMC is the Nursing and Midwifery Council in the UK; a government agency set up under Labour to ensure that professional standards are adhered to and serve the public interest. Functionally the NMC is a hastily formed clan of festering twitching half-wits managed by a team of cowering 'yes'-monkeys. Cost of registration pack: £170
1 month pre-emigration I receive a letter stating a page of my NMC application is missing. I call the NMC and the half-wits speak to me as if I am a Nigerian fraudster attempting to sneak into their country and eat their children. After several further calls to half-wits it is revealed that they have lost one page of my application. Page re-signed and re-sent.
2 months post emigration my application has been received, and I receive another letter stating that one part of my reference has not been sent in. It was sent. More calls to the half-wits and demands to speak to the managing monkeys eventually result in the admission that "the papers are scanned when they arrive in the mail room, but if they are missed and not scanned they will have been destroyed". Second copy of reference sent.
3 months post emigration I call to speak to an NMC representative about a new article that has appeared on the official NMC website. This post says that overseas nurses (non-EU) should be advised that when applying for a nursing position, they will only be appointed to the position if NO suitable candidate from the UK or EU can be found. To a newly emigrated Canadian entering an already tough job market, this declaration makes the prospect of employment sound nearly impossible. Several calls to the half-wits and the managing monkeys confirmed their belief that this was indeed true. Several days and several bottles – and not a few tears - later when I realize that this is 'discrimination based on nationality' (as I already had a right to live in the UK and didn't need a visa). I call the NMC and demand to speak to a managing monkey to lodge my complaint. Two days later the stated article had mysteriously vanished from the NMC website with no word of explanation or apology.
And eventually, many phone calls and emails later, the NMC did agree to let me nurse in the UK. After taking a 3 week overseas nursing course that is. Cost £450.
They put me on the General/Adult register. As they do with all overseas nurses. This means I have a particularly difficult time gaining employment in my area of paediatric nursing. Apparently England had a nasty general nurse called Beverly Allit who murdered children she cared for in hospital, therefore the government is doing its best to do away with general nurses (like me) who take care of kids. Ta for that. And a pat on the back for getting to the root of the problem.
Luckily after one stint doing nursing for a private company (for a year), the NHS took me on nursing young people. And I love nursing them. A shame the NHS is as it is. And to anyone considering a move to nurse in Blighty I advise you to prepare for a bumpy ride.
NHS Welcomes the World's Nurses
So why, exactly, is it so difficult for a Canadian nurse to come here and find work? Well, apart from the fact that Canada isn't in the EU, it's basically down to the myopic mismanagement by our Government. A few years back the NHS was short of nurses. The UK Government decided the solution was to increase and expand nurse training opportunities (sensible) and also, infuriatingly, to recruit overseas nurses; often from under-developed countries. In 1999 5,643 nurses were poached from the Philippines, 1,455 were from Nigeria, and 405 were stolen from Ghana. In one year! In fact in that same year 16,963 nurses were recruited from abroad.
The reason for the mass poaching expeditions is that the increased number of nurses going through training take 3-4 years to enter the workforce. Our government wanted a quick solution, and international recruitment was it.
Fast forward 7 years, and the situation for nurses looks quite different. Those nurses who entered into the increased training opportunities are now out in the workforce.... or at least attempting to be. In 2007 more than 30% of newly qualified nurses were unemployed 6 months after qualifying. As it turns out, the government had poached so many nurses that the supply now outnumbered the demand!
Then came the government’s predictable knee-jerk reaction and legislation was put in place to make it nigh-on-impossible for non-EU nationals to gain employment in the NHS (it is illegal for British employers to discriminate against EU workers). So due to Government incompetence the UK has flip-flopped from one extreme to the other. Whereas once they trumpeted the virtue of an open labour market that let so many thousands of foreign nurses in, they now exclude foreign nurses even if that foreign nurse is better qualified to do the job.
As I walked out of Westmount Mall holding a yellow acid man helium balloon one of a gaggle of hairstylist girls, gathered for their morning smoke, cheekily called out "Is that for me?"
"No", I replied, "It's for my mouse....he likes ballooning".
Today was the day that every parent dreads: The first day at school when the little one has to stand on his own four legs. Speedrat, unable to travel back to England with us, had been enrolled at Westmount Junior High School, to live amongst a menagerie of terrapins snakes, lizards, and other rodents, that go to form the school's 'animal club'.
|Speedy enjoying a tube run just before his departure.|
|Speedy on top of the car outside his new home with Mrs Toque looking on and holding back the tears.|
When we got to the classroom the kids shrieked in delight at the sight of the new intake and his amazing cage. "Does he bite?" said one voice as five hands were rammed into the cage to try and get Speedrat out. "Er....no", I said - thinking that there was a first time for everything. But Speedy remained calm and permitted himself to be lifted out of the cage for some heavy petting. All in all I feel good about his new home, he's certain to get a lot of attention and love, and as long as he can keep away from the snakes he should live a long and happy life. Thanks for the memories Speedy, you're a good mouse.
Seven things to do before I die
Teach nursing abroad
Swim nude in the Med, again
Climb a mountain
Learn to cook like a chef
Catch a fish
Donate my organs
Seven things I cannot do
Let my husband sleep in when I am awake
Bake nice bread
Drink four kinds of alcohol without barfing
Have a shower shorter than 10 minutes
Eat smelly fish
Fix my car
Seven things that attract me to Mr Toque
Is my sleeping beauty
Never gets really mad at me
Has funny t-shirts
Laughs at my jokes
Can't drive as well as I can
Likes my cooking (usually)
The way he talks to Speedrat
Seven things I say
Suck my Ass!
Oh no, it's you
Seven Books that I love
Lion the Witch and the wardrobe
What the Birds See
Pillars of the Earth
100 Years of Solitude
I don't read that much
Seven movies that I've loved (at different times)
Life is Beautiful
Grinch Who Stole Christmas
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Seven people to tag
Same as Mr Toque
Because of the time difference I can get up on a Saturday morning, turn on the TV, and watch live Premiership football. Right now I am watching Aston Villa vs Spurs. Villa are winning 1-0 but Defoe just rattled the crossbar.
Mrs Toque: Is Tottenham a place?
Me: Yes, it's a place in London. Why?
Mrs Toque: I was thinking. We should move there and open a baked potato shop called Tottenham Hot Spud.
Me: Mmmm...maybe honey.
Mrs Toque, as she is referred to on these pages, isn't Mrs Toque just yet. But she soon will be.
I'll be away for a week or two getting hitched. Please talk amongst yourselves.