“I thought I was never going back to practicing my nursing profession. Everyday I cried, I almost gave up and lost hope.”
I think most of my fellow Filipino nurses have felt the same way I felt when I graduated from nursing school. Because of lack of vacancy in most hospitals in my home country back then, I had to work in a call center industry for 3 years, and I thought I was never going back to practicing my nursing profession. However, there was just something inside me pushing me to pursue my career, and thank God I followed my heart!
In those 3 years I was not working as a nurse, I consistently searched for job vacancies in the Philippines and abroad during my free time. However most of them require some sort of experience first before they hire you. I thought, how the hell was I suppose to find a nursing job if they all want experience first? Yes, just like every Filipino nurses, I thought of the same thing, I was willing to work even without pay just to gain experience, I was that desperate! So I went to different hospitals and pass my resume, and I targeted the biggest hospitals in Manila, I did not want to settle for anything less if I want to get out of this country later. Then I came across this program from Philippine General Hospital where you have to pay a tuition and pass their examination to enter their training program. There were 200 applicants from what I heard, 50 got accepted and I was so thankful I made the cut!
I started as a trainee nurse at Philippine General Hospital to refresh my skills and knowledge as a nurse, also to have an edge to work soon in this most renowned public hospital in my country. After the training, one would still wait at least 6 months to be accepted. I needed a sustainable income immediately after I resigned from my job as a call center agent, so I applied in other hospitals while waiting. Luckily, I got accepted in one of the most acclaimed (so they say) private tertiary hospital in the Philippines in Makati City, and worked there for 2 years just a month after I finished my training at PGH.
While working in a medical-surgical ward at the said hospital, which gave me so much stress because of the demanding job roles mostly not in our job description, pressure from our day-to-day tasks that need to be done ASAP – timely and rightly, unwanted extension of working hours which you have to justify with your manager to get paid for, I woke up to the reality that it was not worth it and I had to get out of it! I cried almost everyday because of it plus the fact that I had to wrestle my life out of the daily traffic jam of our crowded city, Manila.
On top of these, I was battling with emotional personal issues which in my country were not very acceptable reasons to have a time off. Imagine the emotional depression I went through those days still going to work and flooding the medication room with my tears and filling it with negativity every single day. My emotional status would have affected my patients’ safety but taking a time off because of this was definitely frowned upon. Thank God I still managed to go through my shifts everyday with just some minor issues like complaints from patients like when I did not smile and they felt like I did not like what I was doing. I couldn’t blame them, who would like to see a frowning nurse with swollen eyes while sticking them with a needle or delivering their IV meds?
I just couldn’t reach self-actualization. How could one feel an attainment of this if not satisfied with physiological, emotional and security essentials, which according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, have to be relished before fulfilment of one’s own full potential?
Under appreciated, burned out 95% of the time, undervalued, disrespected, and although the hospital paid me the required minimum wage in my country, comparing to how much stress I got on a daily basis and how sometimes frustrated I was in performing hazard tasks I was not especially trained to do so (trust me you don’t wanna know), it was never enough to sustain my daily physiological needs, more so not very well for my mental health.
So I said I had enough of this, I felt the need to start over again. I searched for ways to get out of this system, and I found out that there were a lot of opening jobs in the UK and the process was not as difficult compare to the U.S. So there I started looking for an agency who will help me through this process, took the examinations required, paid the required fees, and after a few months, finally my first out of the country – the United Kingdom!
Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of the place where I came from. Philippines have a lot of potential being one of the best tropical, biodiversed country in the whole world, 7,107 islands with different colours of sand from white, yellow, pink, black, and never loses sight of the sun. It is mostly a paradise if only one can sustain the needs and have fun under the sun at the same time while saving money for the future. What I was not proud of was the system in my country. How badly mistreated nurses are because the government itself does not value the very heart of healthcare. Bullying everywhere, seniors eating their youngs, doctors feel entitled to be respected like kings, patients feel like you need to serve them like slaves, and hospitals taking advantage of newly graduate nurses because we need experience if we want to further in this career.
When I came to the UK, everything was different. I felt my value and importance in the multidisciplinary team. Consultants and senior managers thank you and praise you because of your hard work, they do not feel like you need to greet them in the middle of a chaotic stressful time, they do not oblige you to do things you are not trained to do so, and will try to protect you as long as you have done everything in your part. Many years I have been here and yet I have never felt blamed for anything in particular when something went wrong. Simply put, they are just the nicest team I have ever been with! Sad to say that I realised that I have never been so discriminated as a nurse than when I was in my own country.
Everything went smoothly ever since I came to England. It was an eye-opening that we still need to improve a lot of things in the system of healthcare in my country from the attitude of the people working as a team, the blaming culture, the compensation and benefits, the time off we need to breathe from all these stress because we deserve it! I hope there comes a time that the greatest export of our country is not manpower, because if I can have all the benefits I am receiving now and feel valued in my profession in my own country, why would I leave my beloved summer-all-year-long home in search for greener pastures? Maybe just for love, but that’s a different story. 😉