‘Champions’ take the lead on improving care for refugees and asylum seekers

Programme created by former refugee helps students share information with peers and nurses

Programme created by former refugee helps students share information with peers and nurses

Nurse academic and former refugee Philomene Uwamaliya, who created the Humanitarian
Champions programme. Picture: Barney Newman

Nursing students are helping to educate their peers and colleagues about the healthcare rights of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, after taking part in a new online training programme. 

The Humanitarian Champions programme is the brainchild of Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) nurse academic and former refugee Philomene Uwamaliya and was formally launched at a conference in Liverpool this week.

Bridge gaps in knowledge

The programme provides participants with training and a toolkit to help share information with other students and health professionals.

A number of nursing students and law students from the university have already become humanitarian champions and are helping to promote the programme.

LJMU third-year mental health nursing student Albany Ferguson-Smith said: ‘We want to bridge any gaps in knowledge about this issue and show how we can apply this in practice and through using our Nursing and Midwifery Council code. It’s such a fantastic way to approach this subject.’

Fellow LJMU third-year mental health nursing student Emma Sheridan said research showed nurses don’t always feel confident dealing with issues related to refugee, migrant and asylum seeker health. 'We can now pass on the information that has been given to us to help in practice’ she said.

‘Just the beginning’

LJMU faculty of education senior lecturer Ms Uwamaliya won a Mary Seacole Leadership Award in 2016 to develop an online resource hub for professionals caring for asylum seekers and refugees. She said this week: ‘This is just the beginning, we want nurses, nursing students and other professionals to get on board with this nationally.’

Health Education England (HEE) is due to launch an e-learning tool based on Ms Uwamaliya’s work. The tool, to be launched on HEE's website this summer, will enable nurses and other health and social care professionals to access information about asylum seeker, refugee and migrant health.

HEE deputy chief nurse Liz Fenton, who spoke at the conference, told Nursing Standard: 'This is really about making sure as nurses we are able to support the most vulnerable in our society and address the issues about both physical and mental health that they face.

'We need to do this for people seeking asylum, refugees and migrants if we want to provide the person-centred care we were trained to do.'

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