The nurses helping excluded people access healthcare

Published 12th May 2019

Around the world, nurses are transforming health care and health systems so that no one is left behind. In our east London Clinic, many of them volunteer their time supporting refugees, migrants, and people in vulnerable circumstances.

International Nurses Day, marking the anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, is a perfect time to reflect on the fundamental role of nurses.

With the 2019 theme of “Nurses: A voice to lead healthcare for all”, we celebrate their hard work and achievements in providing for access to healthcare for those who need it the most.

To celebrate, we’d like you to meet just a few of the incredible nurses we rely on.




Registered Nurse, MSc Nursing, former Oncology/ Haematology Nurse and Lecturer in Medical Education.


Sheila is a nurse and lecturer in medical education who volunteers in the east London Clinic, where we work to support vulnerable groups including asylum seekers, undocumented migrants, victims of trafficking, and homeless people. “I always wanted to be a nurse. I really value the privilege of being able to work with people, in a caring role, and of being there to make a difference and support people through difficult times in their lives”.

She often has to use telephone translation to communicate with patients who do not speak English as a first language, but stresses that non-verbal communication is as essential in building relationships and rapport with patients. “Recently, I sent a man to A&E who had a broken hand. As he left the clinic he wanted to shake my hand but was unable to as his right hand was badly injured, so with the other hand he gave me a high five. His gesture was very moving.  He was keen to show me that he felt happy with the care and support he had received – even though we couldn’t actually fix his hand there and then”.

Sheila’s patients at our clinic are often concerned about going to the GP or to A&E. “When we pass them on for further treatment we try to be as reassuring as possible to help them feel confident to go and access the urgent treatment they need”.





Registered Nurse, MSc International Public Health, Nurse Diplomat from the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health.


Bethany has been a nurse for five and half years and she has been volunteering with Doctors of the World for over ten months. Many of the patients she sees suffer from mental health issues, often due to the traumatic experiences they have faced in their lives. However, they would normally come in for other concerns and symptoms initially.

“It is great to provide a space for patients to discuss medical and non-medical concerns. As a nurse, we often ask how clients are feeling, not just physically, and this provides an opportunity to explore other concerns.

“There are a lot of barriers people face accessing healthcare in the UK”.

One of her patients had been diagnosed with TB in his home country but couldn’t access all the medication he needed due to shortages. With Bethany’s help, he has been able to visit the local TB team and access the care he needed.


Nurses have a central role to addressing the multiple health challenges that are being faced around the world, to ensure everyone can access healthcare. Please join us today in celebrating the incredible work of our volunteer nurses!

You can support nurses like Bethany and Sheila through our Sponsor a Doctor scheme.


With your support, Doctors of the World will make sure nobody suffers or dies due to lack of access to healthcare.