Colleague nominated to meet King Charles and Camilla, Queen Consort

A Registered Nurse who joined the NHS as an overseas recruit from the Philippines has been recognised for her hard work and dedication with an invitation to meet King Charles and Camilla, Queen Consort, in February.

Airish Joy Saluta, International Nurse Educator at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals (DBTH), was selected as one of only two representatives chosen within the region to attend, in recognition of the fantastic work she has undertaken since joining the team, both as a Registered Nurse and in her capacity supporting the Trust’s overseas recruitment programmes.

Airish came to Doncaster as part of a pilot scheme to bring Registered Nurses to the organisation from abroad. Alongside a number of others from the Philippines, Airish initially worked at Doncaster Royal Infirmary as a Healthcare Assistant, and following the completion of Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE), worked as a Staff Nurse within the site’s Respiratory Unit.

Airish with the Queen Consort (second left)

Following the initial pilot, in 2019 the Trust recruited a further two cohorts of 10 nurses from the Philippines. In addition to working full-time on the Respiratory Unit, Airish took it upon herself to meet and make friends with her fellow country men and women who were new to the Trust, aiding them in studying so that they too could pass their OSCE exams, and register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

This involved sitting with the new recruits late into the night practicing tasks such as changing dressings, giving injections and writing care plans, amongst much else – and all in her own time.

Given her experiences both as an overseas recruit and helping those who were settling into life at Doncaster, the Education Team recognised Airish’s talents and she was offered the job of International Nurse Educator in 2020.

As soon as she started in post, Airish redesigned the programme delivered to international nurses based upon her own experiences and how she believed it could be improved. One example of this the dedication of one day of the induction programme to deliver education on how the NHS works and how wards function.

Airish picks up the story: “I couldn’t believe I was successful in being appointed to the role, but I really do believe I was chosen to do this. Given my experience, I knew straight away what the nurses needed and, with the help of colleagues, took the programme back to basics. I knew from my own initial steps within the NHS, that I had wished that someone had told me what a ward round was, what a bed bath was and so on – there are similarities in the fundamentals of nursing, but every country has slightly different ways of working, and it’s crucial to get this across.”

Unfortunately, around the same time that Airish was appointed to her new role, the pandemic struck and, as a result, training was stopped and all those studying to become Registered Nurses were asked to help on the wards as COVID-19 swept across the country.

Once again and living on site at Doncaster Royal Infirmary, Airish took it upon herself to continue to nurture and support her colleagues, ensuring they remained on track despite the challenges posed by lockdown and other measures which meant examinations were postponed for some time.

As early restrictions eased, and normality began to return, education could continue as before, and since that time dozens of overseas recruits have gone on to gain their official accreditations and become Registered Nurses.

Airish, with the support of a small team of educators and recruitment experts, now designs and delivers the education programmes in full for all our international nurse recruits, using her own experience as a guide. In total, over 100 adult nurses have helped to bolster the ranks at Doncaster Royal Infirmary, Bassetlaw Hospital and Montagu Hospital with more planned in the near future.

For her work helping to settle nurses into life in South Yorkshire and North Nottinghamshire, Airish was named as the recipient of the Royal College of Nursing Yorkshire and Humber’s Black History Month Award in January.

Richard Parker OBE, Chief Executive at DBTH, said: “Airish is an absolute credit to our Trust, to the towns we serve, as well as to the NHS. Using her experience, she has helped to make DBTH a welcoming place for talent from overseas to come here, qualify as registered nurses, and go on to provide high quality care and treatment for the people of Doncaster and Bassetlaw.  We have benefitted immensely from international recruitment throughout the past number of years, and Airish, alongside her colleagues, has been instrumental in that success – on behalf of everyone at the Trust I want to say a huge thank you to her, and I hope she has a long and fruitful career with us.”

Most recently, Airish was invited to a reception at Buckingham Palace to celebrate British East and South-East Asian communities on 1 February 2023. During the exclusive event, she was able to meet both the King and Queen Consort.

Airish added: “It was an absolute honour to be nominated to attend this event, and even more so to represent our Trust and meet the King and Queen Consort. I want to thank DBTH for this once in a lifetime privilege and experience, I cannot thank enough the team I am a part of for their belief, trust and immense support.”

In the past few months Airish has been able to fly her husband and daughter over to the UK to settle and live. Although they are not too fond of the weather yet, she is trying to convince them that the best Yorkshire delicacy is fish and chips.

Some of our International recruits, with Airish second left on the bottom row