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Career Spotlight: Mary Tanay, Nurse Academic

My name is Mary. I arrived in the United Kingdom in 2000 when I was 22. My first UK job was in East Sussex Hospitals (Eastbourne) Maxillofacial-Head and Neck surgical ward. I then moved to the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust where I specialised in cancer nursing and worked there for almost 10 years. I have been a Senior Teaching Fellow at the Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Palliative Care at King’s College London since 2011. At the time of writing, I am a full-time NIHR Doctoral Research Fellow at King’s.

I completed my BSc Nursing degree at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila in 1998. Since moving to the UK, I have gained the following qualifications: Diploma in Cancer Nursing, Master of Science in Nursing Research, Postgraduate Certificate in Healthcare Education, NMC Registered Teacher and Fellow of Higher Education Academy.

I am also currently a Board Member of the UK Oncology Nursing Society and Communications Working Group Member of the European Oncology Nursing Society.

Typical day

As a nurse educator I perform a wide variety of roles. I deliver lectures and seminars at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. I also supervise student dissertations and provide pastoral support to my personal tutees. Module leadership and chair of the Faculty Assessment Board were some of the leadership roles that I have done so far. King’s is a Russell Group research-intensive university; the Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Palliative Care is ranked number 2 in the 2021 QS university rankings in Nursing. Here, nurse academics like me have opportunities to engage in research and scholarly activities.

How I got this job

As a cancer nurse, I have always enjoyed working by the bedside and found satisfaction in supporting patients going through a rather challenging journey as a result of their illness. However, teaching in higher education was something that I have always wanted to do since my university days. Equally, I am also interested in research. I believe that research is vital to find new interventions for promoting and improving health as well as to prevent and manage illnesses. My paternal and maternal grandmothers both had cancer in their lifetime; they received the treatment and supportive care because of research conducted in countries like the UK. For me, doing research in this area is my way of giving back. Hence, I applied for the cancer specialist nurse educator role at King’s when it came up and was successful. I remain clinically engaged by doing bank shifts and through my research and education roles.


One of the challenges is adapting to the structure and overall educational culture. As an overseas trained nurse, I had to do extra effort to learn about the systems, frameworks and the factors that influence nurse education in the UK. Another example, although I will not call it a challenge, is the obvious difference in the level of esteem students give their lecturers here in comparison to how we highly regard our professors back home. But having adult conversations with students, where they are allowed to challenge norms and create/assert their own ideas, is something that I genuinely enjoy and value.


When you are surrounded by thinkers, movers and innovators, you develop constant awareness that you cannot know everything. Everyone’s contribution, whether big or small, will all contribute to nursing knowledge and practice which will ultimately benefit the patients and the public. I feel privileged to experience this type of community. In addition, being able to support nursing students and registered nurse learners, particularly those who are struggling and then eventually seeing them march on stage to collect their diploma, is one of the heights of the job. Being a nurse academic –whether you are engaged in teaching or in research or both–provides possibilities to influence nursing practice and patient care far and wider than you can imagine. This is what I would like to think!

Qualities and skills

I was able to bring so many transferable skills from my previous jobs into academia. I was a research lead nurse immediately before joining King’s hence already possessed some leadership and project and staff management skills as well as research process know-how. Although speaking and presenting skills may be perceived necessary, these can be learned and honed through practice. I also think that having the patience to listen to students’ issues and questions and the ability to provide support are crucial.

Advice for Filipino nurses who want to pursue academics

You must have a firm belief that everything you do in academia will affect a patient at the receiving end of care. Thus, you should be committed to evidence-based care and continually seek solutions to bridge practice and knowledge gaps.

If you love learning, sharing knowledge and creating knowledge, you should consider a career in academia. Build on your clinical skills, knowledge and expertise as these can help greatly with your confidence. Conversely, be aware of your limitations.

I have confidence that the nursing degree obtained from our home country will help you set in and most likely flourish in a career within UK academia. If you want a chat about where to start, contact me.

My Twitter: @MerryTea

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