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Kenyan students willing to further nursing careers in UK

By Rading Biko | April 8th 2021

Mr omar Mohamed Country Manager, SI-UK Kenya (PHOTO: Rading Biko)

Over the last decade, statistics show that the number of nurses moving to the UK from Kenya has been rising steadily, making up the vast majority of new overseas recruits.

According to Ms Stephanie Rose, a Regional Representative for SI-UK in Kenya, the trend is being driven by an alarming nursing shortage in the UK and partly by low wages in most local nursing facilities.

“We have seen an increasing appetite from nursing students willing to further their nursing careers in the UK and that number has been consistent in the last five years. We are forecasting that the momentum will carry on,” said Mr Rose.

The acute shortage of trained nurses in the United Kingdom, she says, has occurred because of several factors including the ageing of the nurse population and increasing demand due to an ageing population as well as under investment in nurse education during the 1980s.

Equally, Ms. Rose says that among those internationally recruited nurses in the UK presently, a large number is coming from Kenya owing to flexibility in studying and favourable working conditions coupled with good wages.

“From our experience, most of those nurses who pass through us tend to remain in the UK for such reasons and we have seen a host of hospitals and nursing facilities in the UK retaining a good number of Kenyan nurses,” she says.

SI-UK has collaborated with several universities in the UK specializing in Undergraduate, Postgraduate, Oxbridge, and Medicine and PhD applications and more recently Uclan University – the University of Central Lancashire, a public university based in the city of Preston, Lancashire, England.

“We are a teaching-focused university, however, we do have a big medical school and we do a wide range of nursing programs and we also have top-up programs all the way to master’s degrees programs. We target those coming straight from high school and those keen for ‘top ups’ in our September and March intakes,” she said during an interview at her office.

The university also offers other causes in engineering, law and business courses among others.

One is eligible for a top-up program – a one year course in nursing in the UK, if they are registered nurses in their home country, an equivalent of a KMTC diploma course which is then automatically upgraded into a degree in a UK university.

Nursing students with Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) are enrolled through a foundation program – a one-year nursing course which would ordinarily cost about 8,000 UK pounds and upon completion the learner has an option to choose into an adult, mental health program or child programs.

It is estimated that the number of registered nurses in the UK dropped by 96 per cent between 2015 and 2017. As a result, UK employers are offering excellent incentives to attract international registered nurses to fill these positions.

Another reason Ms Rose says is likely to contribute to the massive nurses’ migration, is recent changes in Post-study work opportunities in the UK.

From 1 July 2021, international students who have successfully completed an undergraduate or master’s degree will be able to benefit from two years’ work experience in the UK upon graduation, through the new Graduate Route.

The new graduate route means that any eligible student who graduates after this date will be able to apply for the route. This includes students who have already started their courses.

Due to the dire need for registered nurses, certain UK employers are now offering to cover flights, accommodation, visa, and registration fees as an incentive for nurses wanting to work in the UK.

“These packages, over and above a great salary once you start working, make for an attractive offer. Relocation packages are offered at the discretion of the UK employer,” says Omar Mohamed, a director at EduCare limited, an education consultancy firm in Kenya.

It is estimated that from 1999 to 2010, 23,350 students enrolled in nurse training in Kenya. While annual new student enrolment doubled between 1999 (1,493) and 2010 (3,030), training institutions reported challenges in their capacity to accommodate the increased numbers.

Key factors identified by the nursing faculty included congestion at clinical placement sites, limited clinical mentorship by qualified nurses, challenges with faculty recruitment and retention, and inadequate student housing, transportation and classroom space – factors that have greatly contributed to the massive migration.

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