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Career Spotlight: Jan Arriola, Millennial Filipino Nursing Leader in the UK

Jan is one of the youngest Filipino Nursing leaders in the UK today.

He finished his nursing degree in 2012 in the Philippines and moved to the UK in 2016. Just like most of us, Filipino nurses here in the UK, he also went through the same route. He started as a Band 4 Healthcare Assistant and after completing his NMC requirements became a Band 5 Staff Nurse. After a year, he was determined to progress and worked his way up to become a Charge Nurse (Band 6) then to an Associate Clinical Practitioner at London Northwest University Healthcare NHS Trust and now as a Ward Manager or a Band 7 Charge Nurse.

Jan is a Florence Nightingale Foundation Scholar and was chosen as a speaker by the NMC in the celebration of 100 years of Professional Nursing in the UK. He is also part of the interim committee members of the reinvigorated Philippine Nurses Association United Kingdom.

We asked Jan to share his story alongside with the challenges and the lessons he learned in his UK Nursing journey.

What is your current role?

I work currently at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in Chelsea, London as a Band 7 Charge Nurse. It is my first ward manager role providing clinical leadership to a team of senior staff nurses, nursing associates, health care assistants and service administrators.

Managing a ward is a big responsibility however I am blessed to have mentors who have supported me throughout my UK Nursing journey. They believed in my capabilities and saw my potential as a leader. Their encouragement and support have motivated me to push myself, widen my horizons & move out of my comfort zone.

Can you say that you have reached your career goals? Or advocacy in life?

I can say that I am still on my journey of finding my ultimate goal or advocacy in life but I have always been interested in helping those who do not seem to find their voice in their workplace. In my role, I have been exposed to the challenges of nurses, particularly international nurses like us. Some of them felt that they were not given the opportunity to speak up or some have recognised the opportunity given to them, but they do not know how to use it. Some also did not see that career progression is possible. I see that through my role & my story, I can empower my fellow staff and fellow Filipino nurses to speak up and drive their own careers.

What are your current challenges as a Nursing Leader?

As a young Nursing Leader and part of BAME, one of my key challenges is building my credibility and gaining the trust of the people who I am working with-- from my fellow leaders to the staff I am managing and working with.

As I have not been trained in this country and the way I speak can be different from the way others speak – you would understand why some may have initial doubts on my capabilities. I saw this not as a deterrent, but as an opportunity to prove that I can do the role, more so- be better at it. I had to continuously persevere. I also learned how to be respectful and recognise the work of others but also speak out when things do not seem right.

It looks you have been working hard. Do you still have time to relax?

Yes, I need to work hard too so that I can send money back in the Philippines and cover my cost of living expenses. Working & living in London can be costly compared to the Philippines and other parts of the UK. But I see to it that I find time to relax, especially during my days off and leaves. The good thing about working in the UK is the amount of annual leaves they allow their employees and travel across UK and other countries is easy (pre- Covid-19). I take holiday breaks with friends or do solo-travels too. If I cannot travel, I would meet up with friends, cycle around London or just having coffee. These help me relax & recharge, ready for the next busy days at work.

Who is your inspiration as a nurse? And as a leader? And why?

My story resonates with most Filipino nurses in the UK. Being away from my family is difficult. But I know through my work, I can help better my family’s lives. They inspire me to continuously persevere.

My inspiration as a leader is my mother. She was strict yet compassionate. Growing up, she knew how to enforce discipline the right way. She made sure we understood why we need to be told off and that the incident is a learning opportunity for me and my brother. It was her who moulded me and where I got my leadership style.

I am strict and look serious most of the times, but when my staff comes to me, I listen and find ways on how to help them sort their issues.

Do you have any advice to the Filipino nurses especially to those who are striving to excel in their careers?

I would always remind every nurse that comes to me, it does not matter where you came from, as long as you are passionate and dedicated in what you do. The only person who can stop you from progressing your career is your own self. Age, gender, race should not be a reason or a hindrance for you to climb up the career ladder. Our society needs diversity for it to thrive.

For all nurses who want to progress, take on the challenge. Grab learning opportunities when available. Continuously live your values and strive hard to stick to them. Believe in yourself and you will get there!

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