AFTER months spent scouring Europe for dedicated nurses, the Great Western Hospital is just 35 employees short of its recruitment target.

Last April, faced with staff shortages caused by the limited numbers of nursing places offered at universities across the country, management at GWH invested £1.1m in a recruitment drive, as well as £250,000 in training development.

So far, 289 nurses and 52 midwives have joined the trust, increasing the number of nursing and midwifery staff on the wards and in the community by 138 compared to the previous year.

It is estimated just 35 posts now need to be filled, compared to the 100 forecast just a few weeks ago.

“The number of nurses we need to recruit has gone down massively,” said Adam Kirton, head of recruitment.

“We have quite a few avenues to recruit. We have recruited from abroad and locally trained nurses.

“We are going to bring another 27 nurses from Spain and Portugal who have worked in large hospitals in Madrid, Lisbon and Porto and are familiar with a fast-paced environment.

“They are every bit as good as UK nurses.

“During International Nurses Week we made 17 job offers and the majority are to nurses that are locally trained and have done a placement here as part of their degree.

“We are trying to work towards an eight patient per nurse ratio.”

The drive aims not only to fill vacancies but ensure nurses are allowed more time with each patient to provide personalised care.

Helen McEnery, a staff nurse in the Emergency Department, was recruited from Ireland and started at the hospital in January.

She was pleasantly surprised at the amount of training, support and supervision she received from the very first day.

“It is massively different here,” she said. “In Ireland as a newly-qualified nurse you are handed the keys and off you go.

“The preceptorship programme has been good and we have got clinical supervisors here. I’ve learnt so much more here than I would have at home. Everyone is supportive, really encouraging me to learn new things and sending you on courses.”

Working alongside staff of other nationalities has given recently-qualified nurse Emma Galos, who trained at Oxford Brookes University’s Swindon campus, has made her even more appreciative of the opportunities available to her.

“I qualified in June last year and started here in August,” said the 42-year-old staff nurse on the Woodpecker ward.

“It is good having foreign nurses’ perspective and hearing that what we do here is very good compared to their countries.

“And because Woodpecker ward is a new ward there have been new opportunities.

“I’ve been able to get some training and mentor new recruits that are coming through.”