The NHS must welcome all, with a culture of belonging and trust. We must understand, encourage and celebrate diversity in all its forms.

NHS People Plan    

Creating a sense of belonging is a key component of the NHS People Plan and is recognised as an outcome of successful equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) initiatives. When considered in the context of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, a sense of belonging underpins the individual's ability to achieve their full potential. Creating a sense of belonging is therefore crucial for the internationally educated workforce (IEW) as they navigate their new role and life in the UK.

Working in a new and unfamiliar environment can be challenging, and staff members may experience feelings of isolation or disconnection. By creating a sense of belonging, the organisation can help to reduce these feelings and promote a more positive working environment (NHS England). It can also help internationally educated workers to build stronger connections with colleagues and patients, which can be beneficial for delivering high-quality care. When staff members feel like they are part of a team, they are likely to collaborate more effectively, communicate more openly, and work together with more confidence (NHS Employers).

Creating a sense of belonging can help trusts retain their IEW, reducing turnover and ensuring that the organisation can benefit from their skills and expertise in the long term. When staff members feel like they are valued and supported, they are more likely to stay with the organisation, and contribute to organisational success (NHS England).

Board members play a critical role in creating a sense of belonging in the workplace. Initiatives that may support the development of an inclusive culture, where staff feel a sense of belonging, include:

  • Training programmes or workshops designed to help staff members understand and appreciate cultural differences.
  • Ensuring organisational policies and procedures are inclusive and respectful of different cultural backgrounds. This might involve reviewing recruitment practices to ensure that they are fair and unbiased, implementing processes for dealing with any instances of discrimination or harassment that may arise, and ensuring that pastoral and spiritual services are in place to support all cultures and faiths.
  • Developing staff networks and support groups that are specifically designed to meet the needs of the IEW. These groups can provide a safe and supportive environment for staff members to share their experiences, build relationships, and support one another.
  • Providing visible leadership, active engagement on diversity and inclusion, and promoting a sense of belonging and inclusion among all staff members.

By taking these steps, board members can help to create a more supportive and inclusive working environment for their IEW, which can help to improve collaboration, reduce turnover rates, and ultimately lead to better outcomes for patients.

Below are two examples of how trusts are creating a sense of belonging for their IEW:

Support programmes

Support programmes in the NHS are important to create a sense of belonging for internationally educated workers. These programmes can provide language support and cultural awareness training, mentoring and buddy opportunities, social events such as cultural celebrations, easier access to support services and recognition and reward streams.

The Stay and Thrive programme by WeNurses is a cross-regional research in action pilot involving 41 organisations across the North East and Yorkshire and South West regions. The programme aims to uncover what really matters to international recruits and how conditions can be created where international recruits feel a strong sense of belonging and are able to thrive in their personal life and professional life, whilst progressing in their career.

Click here to explore this topic further with a case study from The Mid Yorkshire Teaching NHS Trust.

Staff Networks

Good staff networks provide a safe and supportive environment, where colleagues with shared characteristics can raise issues, network, and socialise. They can also provide a critical forum for the organisation, acting as a barometer for staff experience and engagement, and a space for peer learning and mentoring. They can also help promote allyship. For international recruits, staff networks provide a space to build connections and develop a sense of community – both across the wider organisation and with other international colleagues. Staff networks can also offer an alternative route to giving feedback on organisational initiatives that support the IEW and provide an opportunity to influence improvements for future cohorts of international staff.

Click here to explore this topic further with a case study from University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust.​