Coaching foreign nurses is crucial

Published on: 2 July 2019

By 2026, Belgium will need an additional 46,600 people a year in its healthcare sector. To combat the growing shortage of nurses in hospitals and care centres, employers are increasingly recruiting workers from outside the EU. But sufficient coaching should be an essential part of bringing over these foreign workers.

The number of vacancies for nurses has tripled in five years’ time. In part, the increasing shortage of nurses is attributable to an ageing population and the fact that every year, fewer students are enrolling in nursing programmes, pushing employers to look abroad.

But that, too, is not without difficulties. Staff shortages are now also emerging in Romania and Poland, while the need for these services continues to rise across Europe.

There is, however, a significant number of highly qualified caretakers outside of the European border, willing to build a future here.

"We work with people from the Philippines, for instance," says William de Marbaix, director of Select Medical. "These are people who already have a lot of experience as nurses in JCI-accredited hospitals, but are unable to find work in their own countries."


But Asian nurses sometimes have difficulty adapting to the cultural differences in Flanders, Margo Cloet of Zorgnet-Icuro recently told De Tijd newspaper. The language barrier, too, can be an obstacle.

That is precisely why it is so important to give these foreign employees sufficient guidance, according to William. “We often see that they are left to their own devices once they start working in a hospital or residential care centre. They do not offer extra language lessons and do not invest any money in it. All those elements increase the risk that it will end badly. "

"That's why we very much believe in good coaching," he says. “When working with foreign people and cultures, one must also give them the opportunity to integrate, not only technically, but also culturally. That means that you have to guide people in the workplace, in their socio-cultural environment.”

Offering extra language courses and appointing an intermediary who is familiar with the culture and the sector, can aid a smooth integration process. "We have our own Select nurse here in Belgium who coaches the new nurses in the workplace," says William. "We are also their employer for a year so that they can lay the foundation to build a good life in Belgium."

“This is good for the candidate because they know who we are, they have a reference point. And that's good for the client because he doesn't always have the time to facilitate that integration."

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