They arrived in Italy from India at the end of 2009, very young, he was just over 25, she was 22. And in Italy they found work as nurses, met and fell in love ‘in the ward’, and started a family. Sijo and Minamol George today have 3 children, two girls and a boy – ages 8, 6 and 3 – and they tell Adnkronos Salute their life path that led them to finish their nursing studies and accumulate 2-4 years of experience in hospitals in their country, to leave Kerala, the state in southern India where they were born and raised. Destination: Lombardy. A leap of faith at the beginning, they explain, because they didn’t know anyone in Italy. A story, that of the couple who, in the near future, could become that of many other Indian colleagues, after the announcement by the Minister of Health Orazio Schillaci to look at agreements with India to recruit staff in the face of the chronic shortage of nurses in Italy.
“We started from scratch,” says a smiling Sijo, who is now almost 40 and has more than a decade of work experience behind him. Years spent almost entirely at the San Donato Polyclinic (which is located on the outskirts of Milan, in San Donato Milanese and is the cardiovascular Irccs of the San Donato Group), where today he works in a very delicate department, the adult cardiac surgery intensive care unit. His wife Minamol, on the other hand, works with children in the Pediatric Cardiac Surgery Intensive Care Unit. In a hospital that is an international reference for the heart.
“We are lucky – explains Minamol, now 36 – because we work in an important hospital, because we were welcomed with open arms and we have to thank our colleagues for the support they gave us especially at the beginning. They helped us a lot and the environment work is beautiful and very advanced”. In Italy, the Georges found employment “through an employment agency, ‘JOB Just on business’, based in Milan. It was a time when, like today, there was a shortage of nurses here. And over the years, over a hundreds of Indian colleagues have arrived in structures in Lombardy, in particular, and in other northern regions. Even now, after the Covid pandemic, the agency is facilitating the placement of other nurses from India and other countries”. This agency, Sijo points out, “does not ask nurses for money for recruitment. These services are paid by the structures that need staff to be selected for them. I say this because there are so many agencies in India that are asking colleagues for money , in addition to being paid by the structures”.
How do you become a nurse in India? There are two study paths, diploma and degree. “One involves 3 years of study and apprenticeship, the other 4 years and apprenticeship. The recognition of the title in Italy is now possible if you have at least 4,600 hours of theory and practice”, they say. When Sijo and Minamol arrived in our country, they followed the standard path to have their qualifications recognized and, Minamol recalls, “then you had to take an exam” in what at the time – before the current Orders – were the Ipasvi territorial colleges, to enroll to the register”.
Today, in the wake of the need to speed up the recruitment of healthcare personnel, including foreign ones, in times of Covid, and more recently with the Milleproroghe decree, the possibility of temporarily carrying out the profession is envisaged as an exception to the current regulations on the recognition of professional qualifications. “Without enrollment in the register – explains Sijo – only the recognition from the competent region is needed. This will be valid until December 31, 2025”.
Going back to the story of Mr and Mrs George, both of them, after having completed the process of recognition of the title, had an interview with Tiziana Fiorini, who is the director of Sitra (Company Technical Rehabilitation Nursing Service) of San Donato. Minamol was the first to be hired on a permanent basis. Then Sijo who, after a very short period in Bergamo, returned to San Donato and has always remained in this hospital ever since. The biggest difficulty they had to overcome? “Language,” they chorus.
Before arriving in Italy, both attended an Italian course, to have a basis. “This is the most difficult part – they admit – Our language is very distant from Italian. It is obviously easier for us to speak English and therefore often the first choice is to go to English-speaking countries. We chose Italy to learn from a technical point of view, for culture, tradition”. “We study and practice in India, but going to a foreign country – explains Minamol – allows you to accumulate experience and grow. Surely people like us who train in India would like to go out to work”. And there is undoubtedly also the economic motivation. “In India – explains Sijo – salaries are lower, we earn more or less 300-400 euros a month, and going abroad offers a better opportunity”. (continued)
“Our country of origin – the two professionals continue – is very large, it has surpassed China in number of inhabitants, it is the most populous nation in the world and there are many well-trained nurses”, lists Sijo. “There is a good school, there are many hospitals – adds Minamol – and each nurse has a smaller number of patients to follow, so she can devote a lot of attention, assistance and care”. The intention of the George family is to stay in Italy for a long time, for now. “Our children love living here, they have their friends, being born here, India is like another world for them. We miss our family so much, but we are fine in Italy, we are well integrated, and it has never happened to us episodes of discrimination or racism. The relationship with patients has always been good and without problems overall. Our advice to those who want to come to Italy to work in healthcare facilities is to study Italian before leaving. It takes at least 4-6 months. In addition to the course taken before arriving, we also continued to study in Italy”.
Health Minister Orazio Schillaci, concludes Sijo, “does well to look at India” and evaluate all the options together, including the possibility of having professionals from this area to reduce shortages, as he has proposed in recent days. “Because the nurses who are trained in our country are good – assures Sijo – The only point is the language. You need to have the opportunity to learn it. Only this. And to my colleagues I say: having a basic knowledge of Italian you can come here fearless”. Surely, Minamol comments, “you will find good luck. It was like this for us”.