Great opportunity, but many minefields—tips for T&T nurses migrating to UK

“[…] For the winters, your accommodation costs should budget to cover heating and electricity. The best-case scenario is finding accommodation at a fixed cost provided by your employer.

“[…] Never raise your voice loudly to appear to be shouting at anyone in the workplace. Do not wave your hands/arms around in frustration. These things tend to be seen as ‘aggressive’—and it matters not if you think you were not being aggressive. It is their country and their culture…”

The following Letter to the Editor, which offers advice to Trinidad and Tobago nurses who are migrating to the UK, was submitted to Wired868 by Britain-based consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Russell D Lutchman MRC Psych LLB (Hons) DipMgmnt CertSoSci HRD (Amnesty Intn’l):

Photo: At present, Britain is trying to woo nurses from all over the globe to help deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

I am pleased to learn from a Newsday article on 26 December 2021, that lots of nurses are jumping ship and coming to the UK. Enough is enough. Trini nurses have had a bad deal for the last 30 years. Nobody should blame them for taking care of themselves and moving abroad. 

I understand that a considerable proportion are mental health nurses. The Brits will love you and welcome you with open arms. There is a chronic severe shortage of mental health nurses over here. 

Good on you, as they would say in England. I wish to extend a warm welcome to all and provide some tips on how to get integrated, based on 30 years’ experience of living here. I will assume for the benefit of many, that those nurses will not have lived for long periods in the UK or any other First World country in the Northern Hemisphere.

When most people think of the UK, they are really thinking of Great Britain (GB) which is England, Scotland and Wales. I will think of the UK in that sense hereafter and lots of people think of England when they talk about ‘the UK’.

GB is a complex nation and very large compared to T&T. 

Photo: Popular British character, Mr Bean, takes the scenic route…

The very big issues about living and working here are:

  1. Geography and distance
  2. Climate and weather
  3. Cultures. 

Anything that falls under the big three will affect your working lives over here. 

If you never lived in Europe, America or Australia, the size of GB will get to you. You cannot, like in Trinidad or Tobago, ‘just pick up and go dong tuh visit a pardna’. Distance, travel costs and time will confront you. It was not uncommon over the years for someone to visit the UK, call me on the phone and go ‘come dong on Saturday nuh’—when I’m living 150 miles away.

Geography also affects accommodation costs and cost of living. The Southeast of England is relatively expensive. Outside the surrounds of London by about 50 to 100 miles, it gets cheaper. 

Weather conditions vary a whole lot depending on which part of the country you set up. Winters are predictable in their unpredictability. ‘Coldness’ over here is surely easier than in Canada. Winters have become milder, but it takes time to adjust. I was still adjusting after 10 years.

Photo: A winter day in Scotland.
(Copyright Getty Images)

If you happen to start off in Scotland, winters can be brutal—much colder than in England, and very dark as the daylight hours are so short. If you have never seen horizontal rain, Scotland is the place to find it. In any part of the GB, do not skate on ice and fall; you could break something. 

For the winters, your accommodation costs should budget to cover heating and electricity. The best-case scenario is finding accommodation at a fixed cost provided by your employer.

If you must rent privately, be very, very careful. There are all sorts of tricks and scams private landlords and agents will pull. I was conned in the early years.

Culture is the biggest area of life to get to grips with. It encompasses different ways of using the same English language, different accents in different parts of the country, many different customs, money, and how the law works. 

Never get caught by the law doing anything criminal or you risk deportation—even if you acquire citizenship sometime later (usually after 5 years of approved residence). Do not even try to get away with doing anything illegal. The police and legal systems work very well over here, compared to T&T. 

Photo: Bobbies on the beat…
(Copyright Independent.co.uk)

You do not have to acquire an English accent; it just helps to speak proper English and articulate your words properly. All cultures in the UK are pretty nosy so share of yourself only what you can afford to be spread far and wide.

Never raise your voice loudly to appear to be shouting at anyone in the workplace. Do not wave your hands/arms around in frustration. These things tend to be seen as ‘aggressive’—and it matters not if you think you were not being aggressive. It is their country and their culture. 

As a nurse, you have good reason to fear the UK’s Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). Loads of nurses are hung out to dry for seemingly trivial matters, among other serious matters.

Do everything that the NMC says you must and should do. Never ever come to work smelling of anything that might be construed as alcohol. 

Be on time—regardless of rain, snow, flood, or anything else. This is not T&T. They may accommodate such ‘reasons’ a couple of times, but don’t make excuses for lateness a habit. 

Photo: Nurses get ready for battle at the NCRHA.
(via NCRHA)

As a Trini nurse, you have to work harder than all around you. Go the extra mile. Know your stuff and deliver your knowledge and skills.

If you are driving in GB, ensure you have taken driving lessons and have a valid driver’s license. Follow all that is taught. You will get caught if you break the speed limits or traffic signals. 

It is not all about work, although that will be a most important part of life. GB is a beautiful country. There is so much to do and see on days off, especially from late spring to early autumn. It is very easy to overspend on entertainment, such as pubs, restaurants, fast food, etc. 

Watch that money and control it very carefully. Do not lend people money. You have a very low chance of getting it back. Avoid getting into ‘investment deals’. It is a minefield. Earnings in the private sector tend to be higher than in the NHS across the bands. There are pros and cons that I cannot go into here. It is a very big topic. 

Photo: Haggis, which consists of the liver, heart, and lungs of a sheep, is the national dish of Scotland.
Enjoy!

Okay, so food is very important. You may miss your Trini food initially. Thankfully, you can cook your own. Learn to cook if you never did. Food is part of the culture over here too, so be adventurous with British food within your budget.

If you’re in Scotland, there is so much more to discover in the food and drink department. Haggis is not a strange animal that roams the Scottish Highlands (as rumour and joke has it)! 

Integrating with ‘Brit culture’ and understanding it will mean spending more time with ‘Brits’. You may feel a natural urge to associate mainly with Trini folk and other immigrants. That is okay but it will hold you back from discovering local cultures and gaining an advantage in the long run. 

For support that is totally free, no-strings, no-obligation and without political influence: find me on email at workersupport@nym.hush.com. I am not recruiting or part of a recruitment organisation. I am only offering to help point the way forward. 

Photo: Nursing students at Coventry University.
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