Overseas nurses’ guide to British slang and use of idiom
Nurses educated abroad can find UK expressions hard to decipher but a guide aims to explain how burying your head in the sand isn’t about a day out at the beach
Nurses educated overseas have a lot to grapple with when they move to the UK – including the nation’s love of idiom and slang.
To help them navigate the phrases used in day-to-day language, the RCN has compiled a guide for recruits from overseas to help them for what they might hear said in a clinical setting. The guide to common English expressions covers more than 50 terms. It aims to help nurses and midwives new to the UK make sense of potentially mystifying phrases. Examples include:
- Giving me gyp Causing pain
- Under the weather Feeling unwell
- Rubbish Of poor quality, or untrue
- Feeling sick Nausea
- Spend a penny Use a toilet to urinate
‘I was confused when a patient told me she felt sick’
Speaking about the launch of the guide, one staff nurse, Adekola, said he vividly remembered being bemused the first time a patient told him she was feeling sick.
‘I was confused, because in my mind I was like “come on, I know you are sick, that’s why you are here”,’ he said.
It was only when he saw a colleague reach for a vomiting bowl that he realised the phrase might mean something else in the UK.
Common English expressions like ‘all ears’ and ‘under the weather’ can be quite confusing for internationally educated nursing staff working in the UK.— The RCN (@theRCN) August 11, 2023
Check out our new guide to some interesting phrases and their meanings: https://t.co/N4DlHmb2G3 pic.twitter.com/wziLJLjHt7
An RCN spokesperson said: ‘People all over the world use figurative expressions to describe their circumstances and emotions. Often, the words used in these expressions don’t appear to have any connection to what they’re describing.
‘If you were raised and educated in a different country, you may find these expressions to be an additional obstacle when assessing a patient’s health and well-being. The aim of the guide is to help you feel more confident when having important conversations with the people you care for.’
Increasing reliance on international recruitment of nurses
The number of nurses educated abroad and working in the UK is growing. Nursing and Midwifery Council data published in May 2023 showed that, of the record number of nursing staff and midwives who joined the UK register last year, almost half were educated abroad, up 610% in five years.
The need to offer greater support to such staff is increasingly clear. A separate NMC report, published earlier this month, found that registrants who came from overseas made up a higher proportion of those leaving the register within the first five years.
In interviews for the report, some said they did not feel respected and had been treated differently to colleagues educated in the UK.
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