EfN Graduate, Sandrine Does Vital Voluntary Work in Laos!

Volunteer Work at the Bamboo School in Laos December 2014

Sandrine (26) and Monika (32) two Swiss midwives went on a trip and worked for one month for the Bamboo School  in Mong Nohi in a small hospital. Our main task was to train the nurses in midwifery and give them a hand in their daily work. During this time we had a translator.  We could live with Alune, who has a small bungalow just 2 minutes from the hospital away. He cooked for us and we enjoyed the Laotian food.

Four nurses work in this hospital. They are responsible for all medical problems for the surrounding villages and are the first point of contact. The hospital is open 8am – 11am and 2pm-4pm. In emergencies the nurses are available by telephone. Every 10 days, there is a market in front of the hospital. On this day people come from far away and use the possibility of medical care.

In Laos the maternal and child mortality rate is very high. In particular the extremely long and arduous paths and poor infrastructure seems to be a big problem. Most women give birth without professional help.

For obstetric and gynecology problems there is one delivery room and a consultation room in the hospital available.

For the delivery itself clean delivery sets are used as well as:

  • A Dopton and Pinar
  • Measuring tape
  • Gravidadisc
  • Oxitocine
  • Konakion
  • Hepatitis B vaccination (and other vaccinations)
  • Pregnancy test (urine)

In case of complications requiring an emergency delivery like a vaginal operative delivery, the women need to be transported by boat (at least 1h) to get to a hospital with a doctor on site.  In case of a cesarean section, it takes another 3 hours to get to the next hospital with an operating room. In the event of postnatal bleeding the waits are obviously very long, sometimes too long. You can’t count on it, that there are blood bottles available.

During our time there was 1 birth without complications. Usually they have 6 births per month.  However, the majority of children in this area are born at home.

In this time, we were able to check some pregnancies. This is very important to select the pathological pregnancies as early as possible to send them to the bigger hospital.

On December 21 we were able to teach 9 nurses in a hospital nearby. They are stationed in the village and often have to work without any infrastructure. Topics were:  hygiene when cutting the cord, postpartum hemorrhage, shoulder dystocia and handling of newborns. The nurses were very interested in everything and a intensive exchange of knowledge took place. Some Nurses seemed to have knowledge and others are very young and still need a lot of training, especially since they work by themselves.

We spent 3 other days in 3 different villages far away where women have little opportunity to give birth in the hospital. There we explained the CDK and handed it to the women. The women were very interested as well.

For us it was a wonderful experience and we were very impressed to see how they live their life in a simple infrastructure

The Laos people are very hospitable and welcoming and we had a memorable time.


Sandrine and Monika

UK Staying in EU-Union?

A new year with new plans and new projects. But what is going on in the London parliament? Mr. Cameron will ask the question, whether the UK will stay in EU-Union. What kind of consequences will that have if the British society vote ‘No’. For us European nurses this vote would mean we would need ‘work permits’. We are currently under the beautiful European law ‘Freedom of movement’. Like any other profession, we are able to travel and to work within the European countries – thanks to Brussels. We at EfN hope that the British society will think about their vote and do hope positively it will be a ‘YES’.


We hope you have all survived the wet summer  – all of us here at EfN towers managed to stop getting too rusty. We have certainly been enjoying the Indian summer for the past few weeks.

What a fab summer of Royals and Sport…..we have never seen so many flags around the gardens in Bristol and obviously we don’t want to gloat to about the number of medals now being worn around the necks of UK sportsmen and women.☺☺ ☺Don’t worry, in 4 years you can all get your revenge !

Sabine had an idea this week (always a dangerous thing, when it happens, it is best to duck!)) and has decided to write a quarterly newsletter to tell everyone what we have been up to. The first one includes news from February to September so is a marathon read. It will be emailed out to all our supporters, students and clients in the next couple of weeks and we’ll put a copy on this website

When we were writing we realised that we have been so busy that we could only put in the highlights so we hope that it will be entertaining and give everyone a flavour of our exciting work. We really are lucky to be working with and teaching so many lively and interesting medical staff.

I hope you can take time to have a look at our new courses and comments on the forum will be much appreciated – you can even tweet us @englishfornurses.

Happy September

Kate & Sabine xxxxxxx


Our director, Sabine, was on BBC Radio West Midlands on Wednesday 18 April to talk about Andrew Lansley’s proposals to stop doctors who don’t speak good enough English from working in the NHS.


Here is a transcript of the interview as broadcast. You can listen to it yourself on the BBC iPlayer until next Wednesday. The interview starts about 12 minutes into the programme: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/p00qr85r


Danny Kelly (show host): The Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, announced plans today to stop foreign doctors who can’t speak enough English working here. He’s also ordering health bosses to ensure that all NHS staff, including nurses in their organisations, have adequate language skills. Sabine Torgler, who is a registered nurse from Germany working over here, and a group of other foreign nurses, got together to form English For Nurses, which offers language training. She’s on the line. Sabine, good afternoon.


Sabine Torgler (English for Nurses): Hello, Danny. Hello.


DK: Great to speak to you, Sabine. What do you think about Andrew Lansley saying he’s going to sack nurses who can’t speak English?


ST: Well, we all know it’s a very hot topic about foreign healthcare professionals coming to the UK. We had our own experience at English For Nurses that we had to learn medical terminology before we came to the UK, and learnt more and more, but on the other hand you have to be able to speak good basic English when you come to the country. And we would support that decision (Andrew Lansley’s) because as I said, to be able to give very good care to your patients on the ward and be able to speak with your British colleagues on the ward, you have to have a good understanding and be able to speak good English.


DK: Sabine, I can imagine if you’re unwell and in a hospital bed, and you’re trying to communicate and express yourself, if the person at the end of your bed cannot understand you, I can imagine, taking into account how ill you are, that it must be just so incredibly frustrating.


ST: Yes, it is. I mean, as you said, from the patient’s point of view it puts them in a very anxious situation. You as a foreign nurse – it’s loads and loads of pressure on your shoulders, so you have the duty to look after your patients and also be able to work within your team, and if your communication skills are not up to scratch, it’s very very difficult to really be able to be a good member of the team, and that’s the reason why we set up this overseas network, English for Nurses. We all came across these huge problems at the beginning when we started our careers in the UK, and we want to help the new generation of overseas nurses to feel more comfortable – certainly more safe – on the wards, and we would welcome everybody who’s coming and working with us.


DK: Sabine, the irony here – and people may say it’s unfair – is just the fact that the NHS can’t get enough British nurses, so the NHS themselves recruit these nurses from overseas, and then sometime later they may indeed now start sacking them. So they recruit them, they interview them, and then they sack them! Now do you think that the NHS and the Government should have an obligation to teach English to these people?


ST: Well, they have an obligation because if you as an employer go out to recruit from abroad, you have to look after your workforce, the potential of your workforce. And the NHS at the moment actually don’t offer these kind of language courses specifically just for medical and nursing terminology. We did all our research – they offer certain language tests, but within this kind of group you are in a hospital setting, you are working in a hospital setting with porters, kitchen staff, administration staff… and these language tests which are currently offered by the NHS, they are not specific to nursing and medical terminology, and also certainly not preparing you in the way you should be prepared – ie. how to read a draft chart, how to read a handover sheet, what’s the difference between your home country’s nursing culture and the British culture… and I think it’s quite easy for the NHS to say we’re going to go abroad and recruit, but you have to look after your staff. There is a huge shortage of nurses coming up. The RCN just published a huge article in their bulletin that Britain is facing a huge shortage of nursing over the period of the next five years. I mean, it’s not looking good, but if…


DK: Sabine, four years ago… I mean, this really was illustrated four years ago when a German doctor gave a 70 year old man… do you remember this? He must have misread his medical chart, he gave him an overdose of painkiller on his first shift, and the patient died.


ST: Yes.


DK: They’re the dangers of not being able to read English properly.


ST: That is what I mean. How do I read a drug chart? Britain has different measurements compared to my home country, Germany, where also the doctor came from. You have to – we are in the health profession. We have to deal with very very ill patients, and the worst case scenario for us obviously is that you do a huge drug error like this doctor did and a patient dies… this is the worst case scenario for nurses, for doctors. And to avoid this, the NHS and the private health sector, they have to look after their overseas staff and they have to provide proper language courses.


DK: OK Sabine, thank you so much.      


Welcome to the new English for Nurses website and this first blog entry! We’ve been beavering away on our design refresh for a while, and we’re very keen to get your feedback so we can continue to improve the site. Please email kate@englishfornurses.org with any comments!


Our business is based on delivering English language courses developed by nurses for nurses, and so a big chunk of the site is obviously devoted to that. We have to pay our mortgages, after all! (By the way, please book on one of our courses! They are educational and fun and there are biscuits.) But as well as seeking to interest you in our wares, we would love you to bookmark us and return here regularly. The content we’ll be uploading on a regular basis will be directly relevant to you as health professionals, and we will try our best to present it in an accessible, entertaining way.


So what do we have in store for you on this website? Well, our news section covers issues that we think will be important to you, rather than being a never-ending grind of copy-and-paste EfN press releases. This blog will be regularly updated with (hopefully) entertaining witterings, as well as bringing you choice examples of the random, the funny and just plain bizarre health-related offerings from all over the internet. Our resources page is an expanding one stop shop full of useful information for nurses relocating to the UK. But most importantly, from the point of view of the reason EfN exists, we hope that our forum will soon be packed with nurses talking to each other, making friends and sharing their experiences working in hospitals throughout the UK and Europe.


Our tutors have a real passion for passing on the lessons they have learnt in their many years of working as nurses. EfN was established to try to make a difference, to help nurses through the difficulties of adapting to the culture and terminology of new hospital environments. We hope that you will like what we have to offer and will help us to spread the word.


Thank you for visiting, and enjoy the site!