Yara and Rawan Kassab, 21, were a picture of delight as they graduated from an award-winning LJMU course on Friday.
The Palestinian twins were not only celebrating their 21st birthdays but also new jobs in the NHS - at St Pancras Hospital, London - and new lives after reaching the UK from refugee camps in Lebanon.
Around 80 refugees have now joined the NHS from the course, run exclusively by LJMU, and coordinated by NHS England and NHS Improvement.
Over the next few years the NHS needs to recruit tens of thousands of international nurses. So getting refugees, often not able to use their qualifications, working again was an "absolute no-brainer", according to Steven Colfar, director of nursing for the North West at NHSE&I.
Minister for Health
Alongside the charities Refuaid and Talent Beyond Boundaries, the partners developed the ‘refresher’ course to speed up the process of getting qualified refugee nurses back into hospitals.
It lasts four weeks and involves practical exercises in an NHS hospital simulation environment, lots of work on how to communicate with patients and help with the English language.
On Friday, Minister of State for Health the Rt Hon Edward Argar congratulated the latest 25 graduates at an event to celebrate the project at LJMU’s Faculty of Health and said the project was a fantastic example of innovation and collaboration.
Speaking via video link, Mr Argar said he had heard a little about the graduates’ stories and was humbled by their resilience and determination: “I’m delighted to welcome you to the UK and to the National Health Service.”
Among those graduating was 40-year-old Ibrahim (pictured above with Prof Raphaela Kane), a Syrian nurse with 15 years experience who has escaped from his war-torn country and spent years in a camp in Jordan.
“I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity. I just want to be able to be a nurse and this course has helped us professionally and personally and helped me get a job in Norwich,” he said.
His countryman Khalid, 25, said the course had “opened (his) eyes to many things. Everything for me is better now; this programme has changed my life,” he said.
The course is now recruiting for its fourth and fifth cohorts and there are plans to roll it out across the UK. So far, graduates have been offered jobs in London, Portsmouth, Norfolk and Suffolk, Yorkshire, and the North West.
Global Good winner
Speakers at the event included Duncan Barton, Deputy Chief Nurse for England, Maria O’Brien, Chief Nurse for Central and NW London, Marina Brizar, UK Director of Talent Beyond Boundaries and Sean Mackay, Associate Dean, LJMU. PVC Faculty of Health Professor Raphaela Kane presented the graduates with their certificates.
The Refugee Nurses programme is the 2021 Winner of the Global Good Award (Community Partnerships).