Gladness Chikumbirike is on her way to becoming a UK qualified mental health nurse, after travelling over 5,300 miles from Zimbabwe to Doncaster to open up a new career in the NHS.

Gladness, 37, is one of nine new overseas nurses who have joined Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust (RDaSH) through the NHS’s Nursing International Recruitment Programme.

Gladness, who grew up in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, qualified as a general nurse in the Matabeleland North area of the country over 10 years ago, before moving into mental health nursing.

She jumped at the chance to further her knowledge and experience in the UK, where RDaSH is providing training support at its Doncaster headquarters site, enabling its first intake of overseas nurses to study for the Nursing and Midwifery Council qualifications required to practise in the NHS.

Gladness, who takes her mental health examinations later this month, said: “I want to broaden my career in mental health and hopefully progress into child psychiatry in the future. It’s a fantastic opportunity for me, I have worked in the Middle East before but I want to establish a career in the UK.”

She plans to bring her son over to South Yorkshire as soon as she is settled. Quinton, 7, is currently living with her parents in Zimbabwe, where she speaks to him daily over the internet.

After qualifying, the plan is for Gladness to become a staff nurse at Windermere Ward, part of RDaSH’s Adult Mental Health Unit at Balby, Doncaster.

Six of the nine RDaSH nurses have already moved onto wards at the Trust and more will join them in the next few months from countries like Morocco, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago.

The Trust has converted a former ward on its Tickhill Road, Balby, site into single room en-suite accommodation for the nurses, together with shared living space and study facilities.

Training support is being provided by Jacqui Hallam from the Trust’s Learning and Development team, assisted by Terry Mahachi RDaSH’s International Recruitment Practice Development Nurse, who is no stranger to crossing frontiers having himself moved from Zimbabwe to England and joining the NHS around 20 years ago.

Terry, who also provides support to the nurses in their ward areas, said: “This is RDaSH’s first venture into international recruitment. We are working with healthcare agencies in those countries where we are allowed to recruit clinical staff to offer them the opportunity to work for us after gaining the necessary supplementary UK qualifications. By the end of 2022 we are hoping to have recruited around 60 mental health trained nurses and 10 general nurses from abroad.”

In tandem with the nurses’ training, International Recruitment Coordinator Kaitlin Walsh – another ‘international’ who grew up in Boston, USA - and Pastoral Support Officer Louise Hathaway, have prepared a welcome programme of activities to help them integrate into South Yorkshire, life, including visits to the local ten pin bowling alley and shopping in Doncaster.

“We want to make the transition to the UK as smooth as possible for our new colleagues and that includes showing them around their area and the local facilities. One of my first tasks was to take Gladness to the shops to buy a coat as she really felt the cold Yorkshire weather when she arrived, but is acclimatising well to it now”, said Louise.