King hosts reception to celebrate international nurses

Hundreds of nurses and midwives have celebrated the contribution they make to health and care, at a Buckingham Palace reception hosted by the King.

The event, held yesterday, spotlighted the diversity of nurses and midwives in the UK and paid a particular tribute to the contribution of the internationally educated workforce.

The celebrations came as part of the NHS 75th anniversary, while also marking the King’s 75th birthday.

More than 400 nurses and midwives attended the reception, which concluded with a surprise birthday song, performed by the NHS choir.

During the event, the King met a selection of international nurses and midwives currently working across the four nations, including staff from India, the Philippines, Kenya and Poland.

In addition, he spoke to refugee nurses and representatives from international nursing and midwifery associations.

At the event, Marimouttou Coumarassamy, chair of the British Indian Nurses Association (BINA), told Nursing Times that he was “completely shocked” to be able to speak with the King.

The King greeting Marimouttou Coumarassamy

“I never thought in my life that this was going to happen,” he said.

“I left my country about 20 years ago, I cannot believe that I can be here today talking to the King.”

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Mr Coumarassamy told the King about BINA’s work in recent years and the impact the pandemic had on Indian nurses on the frontline.

“I was explaining that [BINA] was working closely with our chief nursing officer, Ruth May, who was supporting our community and we were able to get through it,” he said.

The King also spoke to some of the UK’s chief nursing officers (CNOs) at the event.

Sue Tranka, CNO for Wales, introduced him to a nurse from each of the UK countries.

She told Nursing Times: “It was an absolute honour to introduce him to the nurses.

“I think [it was] a really good experience for people to have met him, just to know that he values nursing.”

Ms Tranka said the King’s appreciation for international nurses and midwives was “incredibly special” and that the reception symbolised “global integration on a completely different level”.

“I think there’s a nurse here from everywhere across the world,” she said.

“It’s great to see the different national dresses, to see people celebrating their heritage [and] it’s wonderful to hear the different languages.

“In celebration of diversity and inclusion, this really is the epitome.”

The King took time to greet many other guests at the reception and was always surrounded by nurses and midwives eager to shake his hand.

Jonah Atos, an international nurse coordinator at Western Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland, was one of these nurses.

The King greeting Sue Tranka

She told Nursing Times how, in her role, she helps “recruit, support and train” all of the internationally recruited nurses in her trust.

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“I support them from the moment they arrive in the airport until they get fully integrated into the workforce and to the community,” she said.

Ms Atos, originally from the Philippines, was the first internationally educated nurse to join her trust.

Reflecting on the event, she said: “It was such an honour to be invited to meet his Majesty the King and represent both the Western Health and Social Care Trust and my internationally educated nursing colleagues.”

Meanwhile, the newly appointed health and social care secretary, Victoria Atkins, also made an appearance at the reception.

Ms Atkins was appointed into the role following the prime minister Rishi Sunak’s cabinet reshuffle on Monday.

After speaking with the King, Ms Aktins said: “What an amazing end to this part of the day, to be here in Buckingham Palace with His Majesty the King, celebrating these incredible people who work in our NHS.

“I think it is so wonderful for His Majesty to show his appreciation, and therefore our appreciation, for all that they do to look after us.”

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