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See your practice through another nurse's eyes

International nurses are an invaluable tool for workforces. It enables personal development, reflection and revalidates how you feel about your work. Carole Farrell discusses the use of a nursing exchange programme

International nurses are an invaluable tool for workforces. It enables personal development, reflection and revalidates how you feel about your work. Carole Farrell discusses the use of a nursing exchange programme.

Over the past ten years I have had the privilege of hosting oncology nurses from all over the world here at The Christie Hospital, where they have shadowed staff in the nurse-led clinics.


(L-R) Vicky Taylor, Chris (Lai Lor Ng), Diane Byrne, Wai Man Ling and Carole Farrell

As a nurse clinician in breast medical oncology I had set up nurse-led clinics for patients on adjuvant chemotherapy, Herceptin and endocrine treatment and follow up. The rationale for inviting overseas nurses was that we were keen to share good practice.

Our first placement was Ceci Au, a senior nurse based at a hospital in Hong Kong. Although she was keen to develop nurse-led clinics in her own country, the scope of nursing practice is restricted by Hong Kong regulations. However, Ceci adapted my model of nurse-led clinics to fit the boundaries of her role and she set up the first nurse-led chemotherapy clinic in Hong Kong in 2010. 

International Conference on Cancer Nursing


Ceci Au
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We have hosted nurses from Hong Kong before, so I was delighted to be able to catch up with some of them at the International Conference on Cancer Nursing when it was held in Hong Kong in 2016. It was great to meet up again with Ceci and visiting her hospital put everything into context. Although our countries may be different, the values in oncology nursing are the same. We share a recognition of the importance of evidence-based practice, good communication skills and compassionate care and we can learn so much from each other.

I don’t deny that arranging placements for overseas nurses can be challenging. It takes time to create a bespoke timetable based on the nurses’ learning objectives and it can be frustrating when there are last minute cancellations.

'From the host’s point of view resource limitations often mean lengthy discussions about the practicalities of the visit'

And, of course, there are cultural differences to take account of. For example, during a recent visit by a nurse from Zimbabwe we were conscious that in her country patients have to pay for all consultations and treatment. She was particularly interested in our outreach work and administration of chemotherapy in the community, so we adapted the programme to take account of that.

From the host’s point of view, resource limitations often mean lengthy discussions about the practicalities of the visit. There are contracts to sign, financial agreements to draw up, accommodation to arrange, information packages to put together, human resources, as well as dealing with security and library staff (to arrange access for the visitor).

Focus on providing an experience

And creating a varied timetable for the overseas nurses is no mean feat either. As hosts we have to focus on providing experience across a range of cancers, treatments, specialist nurses and allied health professionals, complementary therapies as well as information and support services and palliative care. It’s also important to include informal educational opportunities as well as study days and organised educational sessions.

So yes, there are challenges, but there are benefits too. Hosting international visitors can rejuvenate your passion for oncology nursing as you see your practice through another nurse’s eyes. And the excitement and enthusiasm displayed by international nurses is infectious.

We take so much for granted in this country. Budgets may be tight and NHS morale may be low, but international visitors often see us as inspirational – and their praise for our achievements can help remind us that, despite all the difficulties, we are doing a good job.


About the author

Carole Farrell is research fellow, Christie Patient Centred Research at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust

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