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A royal reception for our international nurses

Two people are dressed smartly and smiling.

8 December 2024

Two nurses from across the Trust were invited to a royal reception earlier this month as part of the NHS’ 75th anniversary and the King’s 75th birthday celebrations.

The nurses, from Welsh Blood Service and Velindre Cancer Centre respectively, attended the special event at Buckingham Palace which recognised the contribution of international nurses and midwives working in the United Kingdom.

Fariba Thompson, a Nurse Specialist with the Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry, and First Floor Ward Nurse at Velindre Cancer Centre, Carlton Weiquan, were nominated by their senior nurses to attend.

 “I received the invitation through the post and was very surprised by it,” said Carlton. “I found out later that one of my senior nurses nominated me to attend.

“Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to speak or have a nice photo taken with [the King], but I managed to shake his hand after several attempts looking for a chance.”

Fariba said, “I was very surprised and pleased when an invitation arrived at my workplace to attend the reception at Buckingham Palace especially as it was the day before my birthday.  All my colleagues were really pleased and very supportive of me.”

“I had the privilege of shaking the King’s hand and briefly speaking to him. I wished him a “happy birthday Your Majesty” which I think he probably heard from everyone in the room. He asked me if I had a day off from work to attend, and then said, “I hope you enjoy your day”.

Fariba Thompson has been working as a specialist nurse in the Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry for the last 3 years. She moved over to Wales as a teenager and started her registered nursing career in 1991.

“I was born in Iran and moved to Swansea when I was 17 years old due to war and political reasons where my life was in danger. I had to learn to speak English and get used to the cold weather, different culture, and different food, but very quickly Wales became my home.

“My career in nursing started in 1991 when I qualified as a registered general nurse, and then completed my midwifery training in 1994. I have worked for the NHS for over 30 years as a nurse, midwife and then a nurse again. My nursing and midwifery jobs have been varied and fulfilling, including working on medical and haematology wards, labour wards and maternity medical assessment units.

“After working as a midwife for 17 years I decided to go back to nursing and in 2008 I joined the Welsh Blood Service (WBS) as a clinic nurse at the platelet donation clinic.

“Three years ago, I started my current job in the Welsh Bone Marrow Donor Registry (WBMDR) team as a specialist nurse in stem cell and bone marrow collection. I absolutely love my job which involves arranging and performing medical screening, counselling sessions, and collecting stem cells from matched unrelated donors for the treatment of patients with a serious blood disorder such as lymphoma or leukaemia.

“I find my role very fulfilling and rewarding. It makes me so proud to be part of the WBMDR team and to make such a difference in someone’s life. It is so heart-warming when we get letters/cards from patients and their families to give to their stem cell donors to say thank you. It gives me hope that there are people in this world who by their selfless acts of kindness to a stranger can make such a difference to the quality of the life of someone they don’t know.”

Fariba then goes on to tell us the events of the day.

“I attended the reception with Carlton a colleague working at VCC.  We were both very excited but also a bit nervous at the same time. We queued at the palace gate with other attendees and took the opportunity to take some photos and admire what other people were wearing. There was a variety of very colourful and beautiful traditional and national costumes to see.

“We entered the palace after our ID and invite cards were checked by palace guards.

“Once inside the palace, we were greeted by the beautiful sound of the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS choir, before being directed to the ballroom where drinks and canapes were being served.

“I had the privilege of shaking the King’s hand and briefly speaking to him. I wished him a “happy birthday Your Majesty” which I think he probably heard from everyone in the room. He asked me if I had a day off from work to attend, and then said, “I hope you enjoy your day.

“After the King had walked round the room and before he was due to leave, everyone joined the choir and sang him happy birthday.

“I was really amazed that the King was willing to hold this event on his 75th birthday to recognise and celebrate the contribution of international nurses and midwives in the UK health and social care sector.  It was also very pertinent as this year is the 75th anniversary of the NHS.”

Fariba states she was ecstatic to have the opportunity to see and speak to the King. The whole experience is something she is very grateful for and will never forget, as nurses, midwives and other staff working in the NHS deserve to be recognised and celebrated for their contribution to the UK health and social care.

Carlton Weiquan has been a Nurse on the First Floor Ward at Velindre Cancer Centre since June 2023, caring for inpatients during their stay. He first came over to the UK to study at the University of South Wales before eventually joining Velindre Cancer Centre. 

“I was 21 when I first came to the UK and can’t believe how time has just flown by! 

“I started working in the Heath Hospital after I graduated until June this year when I started here in Velindre. I joined Velindre as I felt that I was ready for a change, and because one of my friends started working here about a year and a half before and told me good things about the ward and the support available to staff. 

“I am also interested in palliative care and thought that I will be able to learn quite a lot here. I am a registered nurse in First Floor Ward, so I mainly look after inpatients here. I assist them with day-to-day activities, administer meds, monitor their wounds and dressings, plan their discharges to name a few of the things we do on here. 

“As for being an international nurse, I think it is nice to be able to talk with patients about where I am from and the differences in culture and lifestyles. Sometimes if they’ve been there before or the surrounding countries, it is nice then to be able to talk about what they liked and enjoyed the most (especially the food!). I feel like sometimes that really gives me an opportunity to build good rapport with them. 

“Everyone has been very welcoming and willing to help which really helped me ease into my role here. I also really like getting to know patients and their family members and knowing that what we do here makes a positive difference to them.”

Carlton then explained what happened on the day of the event itself. 

“I met up with Fariba from Welsh Blood Services in the lobby of her hotel in London, and from there we walked for about 10 minutes to the Palace. There was a queue by the Palace gates. They checked our ID and invitation and then we were in the Palace gates! 

“We dropped of our coats in the cloakroom and then went up the grand staircase and into one of the ballrooms where they were serving drinks and canapes. After some time, I noticed flashes going off and noted that the King had arrived. 

“Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to speak with him or have a nice photo taken by their photographer. At one point I almost had the chance to but missed my opportunity due to the crowd. I managed to shake his hand after several attempts and following him around the room looking for a chance. I really wanted a photo with the King as my mum had one taken of her with the King when he was still the Prince of Wales quite a few years ago. It would have been so nice to be able to collage the two pics together. 

“After the King circulated the room the choir sang him two songs, the second being Happy Birthday which the whole room joined in to sing together. He then left and the reception was concluded.”

Velindre University NHS Trust, Unit 2,Charnwood Court, Parc Nantgarw, Nantgarw, Cardiff, CF15 7QZ
Tel: 029 2019 6161