Mae Cometa, a Filipina nurse in the UK, proved that with dedication and passion in your craft can reap higher rewards, no matter which background you came from. Immerse yourself in another inspiring story of how she became a Deputy Lead Nurse (Band 8a) from her humble beginnings to achieving greater heights in her nursing career.
Can you tell us about yourself, your current work, leadership role and advocacies?
I am currently the Deputy Lead Nurse in Infection Prevention & Control of the East & North Hertfordshire NHS Trust. I am an active member of the Infection Prevention Society. I am passionate about patient safety and being able to deliver the highest standard of care to our patients. With my role, I am able to actively provide guidance and support through education and teaching as well as influence improvement in practice through evidenced-based research. Together with one of our consultant microbiologist and antimicrobial lead, we were able to represent our trust in the Infection Prevention Society Annual Conference 2019. We presented a poster on the epidemiology of influenza presentations to acute care, risk factors for critical care admission and influenza vaccine efficacy.
Can you tell us about your career path?
I am an enthusiastic and caring nurse, trained and qualified in the Philippines. Before becoming a nurse in the Luton and Dunstable Hospital in 2009, I gained experience in the fields of medicine, surgery, communicable disease, and accident & emergency. The experience gave me the seedbed to develop my nursing skills and afforded me the opportunity to look after varied health conditions.
For over seven years, I gained valuable experience in the busy Head & Neck Unit of the Luton & Dunstable Hospital NHS Trust. I became experienced in my role in this specialist ward and as my leadership skills grew, I secured the position of a sister in charge. I enjoyed working in a diverse and dynamic multidisciplinary team and found proactive communication skills essential to foster an efficient, calm and positive working environment. Moreover, experiencing the Matron’s role as part of a developmental practice helped me improve my critical thinking skills and decision making.
In 2016, I took the chance to do a secondment role as a Tissue Viability Associate Clinical Nurse Specialist. It is through this role that I was able to expand my experience of delivering formal education and training to a much wider audience in a specialist subject as well as having an active participation in running a specialist service. I became further involved in health care structure and organisation by attending meetings and forums with the Clinical Commissioning Group and regular consultations with the community teams.
In September 2017, I joined the Infection Prevention & Control Team of the East & North Hertfordshire Trust. There was a steep learning curve and the magnitude of responsibility was, initially, daunting. With the enhanced independence as an IP&C nurse, I found that having a flexible mindset, a resourceful attitude, I was naturally able to work productively and effectively whilst managing an often-complex workload. I started in a band 6 role then rose to become the team manager before I secured my current role.
What was your biggest challenge as a Filipino nurse leader working in the UK? What did you learn from it?
The biggest challenge remains that we were not in our motherland, that we are far away from our families, and the culture is very different.
In 2009, we came in the UK as a group. There were around 20 of us and we stayed in the hospital accommodation for sometime until we were able to find our ways around how life is lived in the UK. It was pretty exciting and fun! The support from one another was immense and I think if we have to look back, without that group, I would have struggled with loneliness.
In terms of work, there was a sizeable difference because back home, we were used to practice functional nursing whereas here, we do total patient care. I was not used to standing for 11 hours straight in a 12hour shift. But you know us, Filipinos are known to be flexible, adaptable, skilful and easy to work with. English is also not our first language but we all passed the International English Language Test before coming here so all of us were already able to communicate effectively although there were still some memorable moments because of language barriers.
How do you balance work and life?
Finding the balance is not difficult. It is innate to us Filipinos; we work hard but we also play harder. It is important to have trusted friends that you can spend quality time with (ups & downs) and can go on holidays with. Also, be comfortable of being on your own. Some people will not always be available all the time thus, learn to drive so you gain more independence and be able to visit beautiful places.
Would you say we have enough Filipino women leaders? How would you encourage more Filipinas to step up in their field?
To be perfectly honest, in a foreign country, having someone from a minority is not a usual scene, more so women. I felt that in order to get up there, we must challenge ourselves to look beyond what is now and think of who we want to be in the future. There is a vast career paths available to nursing professionals in the UK, thus I encourage anyone to choose one that you would like to pursue. The roles that we aspire are achievable but we must be willing to spend our fair share of time and effort. Personally, first, I had to prove to myself that I can be who I want to be as long as I am willing to work hard to achieve it. I had to show that I am able to provide effective leadership, that I am capable of influencing change and making difficult decisions.
Do you have any advice to the Filipino nurses especially to those who are striving to excel in their careers?
Don’t stop learning, if in doubt ask for guidance. We have equal career opportunities but it’s on us to prove ourselves. Choose the path that you will find fulfilment and happiness. Ask ate’s and kuya’s who are there already, I am sure they will be happy to provide guidance and inspiration.
Be More Inspired -- Read Jan Arriola's story, a Filipino Millennial Nursing Leader.