When we talk about the healthcare system of New Zealand, it won’t be an exaggeration to say that Indian-trained nurses play a very critical part in it.

In order to support Indian nurses, Oceania Healthcare,  NZ's largest owners and operators of retirement villages, has started its first Indian Nurses Network Group.

Indian Weekender spoke to Dr Francis Hughes, Group General Manager, Clinical and Care Services at Oceania, to find out more.

Explaining the need for a group like this, Hughes says, “I have worked overseas for many years, and that's why I do recognise that it's important that when you have nurses from other countries, they are provided with strong professional support. I know what it's like to feel foreign. I know what it's like to be away from home. Since we have had a growing number of Indian-trained nurses coming into our organisation, we wanted to ensure that they had support from their colleagues, who also came from India. That’s why we have formed this professional network for Indian nurses who work with us so that they can learn and support each other, as they are the only ones that really, truly understand what it's like to be a migrant coming into a country but also coming into Oceania.”

Hughes, who has been described as one of the most influential nurse leaders in the world, believes that it is vital to support Indian nurses and make sure that they enjoy their job and provide them with access to professional development and extra studies. “We know that when Indian-trained nurses come into NZ, they want to access higher education as they highly value education. So, we want to make sure that, as a group, we can understand their needs and support them. And also let them know about their future career paths. We have spent a lot of time building career pathways for the nurses from India, particularly understanding what they want to get into. For example, Do they want to go into management? Do they want to go into research? Do they want to be a nurse practitioner?”

Interestingly, over 50 percent of the registered nursing workforce in Oceania is from India. Giving details about the group will benefit them, Hughes says, “Our senior nurse leaders can help the Indian nurses with accommodation, help them understand how the medical system in NZ works. It is very different from India, and they need to understand they have a lot more freedom. We also want to support their families as we know there are a lot of Indian nurses who have got around families and need support, for example, childcare and all sorts of things. So, there are multiple things that we have learned that we need to do, and we're applying them to support this group.”

But it is not just about professional development but much more. As Hughes puts it, “Migrant nurses face many issues like being away from families …sometimes husband, sometimes children, back in India. They also face the issues of not understanding NZ culture and how to work in a multicultural way when they come here initially. I hate to say it, but I think they are sometimes subjected to stigma and some prejudice. And that's primarily because they may not have worked in aged care in India. Because, you know, it's a very different concept supporting your elderly in India than in NZ.”

Hughes maintains that the feedback from the group will be critical, and that would help to know what other things they can do to support Indian nurses. “It is that we listen and learn from the feedback that our Indian nursing group is telling us that we need to do to help them stay working for us. That's what's critical. We must embrace and support these valuable nurses to keep working and particularly for us.” she says.

Talking about the acute stress that the nurses are facing at the movement, Hughes says, "Covid-19 was only part of the stress that nurses in NZ feel at present. The other issue was that we've been very short-staffed. In the aged care sector in NZ, we are heavily reliant on internationally qualified nurses as over 50 percent of our workforce comes from overseas, and a large portion of that comes from India. So, we have with the borders being closed, and, you know, visas and all those kinds of things, we have, like all other providers, suffered shortages. So what we've tried to do is get around and support the nurses and value nurses. It's been hard, and we have gone the extra mile to try and support them.”