The United Kingdom’s National Health Service is recruiting spouses stationed at Royal Air Force Lakenheath who are also registered nurses in the U.S. to earn their U.K. nursing certification, according to the Air Force.

“There is a massive pool of highly trained and skilled personnel that are spouses,” said Paul Morris, West Suffolk Hospital’s deputy chief nurse and 48th Medical Group honorary commander, in an Air Force news release. “Wouldn’t it be great to use some of that knowledge in the local healthcare system?”

Spouses who are already nurses in the U.S. have historically been required to undergo a taxing process in order to practice in the U.K.

But the program at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St. Edmunds, England, is designed to eliminate some of the challenges that accompany the recertification process — such as cost — while simultaneously boosting the hospital’s staffing levels, the Air Force said.

“Nursing is about caring,” said Alison Devlin, a clinical practice facilitator for West Suffolk Hospital, according to the news release. “We can give patients the time that we couldn’t when the wards were short.”

Fifteen prospective nurses from Royal Air Force Lakenheath visited West Suffolk Hospital Oct. 22, the Air Force said.

The program is an “extension” of the partnership between the 48th Medical Group at Lakenheath with the U.K.’s National Health Service, known as the Clinical Currency Program, according to Morris.

The partnership has existed for nearly 10 years, originating as a way to add surgeons from the 48th Medical Group to rotations at local U.K. hospitals so their medical currency and readiness remains sharp. The program has since expanded to accommodate nurses and medical technicians.

Now, spouses are being factored into the equation through West Suffolk Hospital’s efforts.

West Suffolk Hospital will financially cover the U.K. certification for selected spouses, according to the 48th Fighter Wing. Certification in the U.K. includes a computer-based test and an objective structured clinical examination before applying to the Nursing Midwifery Council to become a registered nurse in the U.K.

Once they have passed both competence tests, they can apply to the NMC for their UK PIN number and work as a registered nurse in the UK, according to Morris.

Interviews and conditional offers have been extended to 11 candidates, and three other candidates are also being considered, he said. In total, costs for fees, teaching, and other resources add up to approximately £2,000 ($2,573) per candidate.

“Seeing them come out the other side will be quite the special moment,” Morris said in the news release. “They’ll have done an awful lot of work, and their career opportunities will have started again in the UK.”

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