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Filipino Nurses Pride: RCN Rising Star Awardees

In October of this year, the RCN London announced the winners of the BAME Rising Stars of 2020. According to RCN, “The Rising Star Awards recognise excellence in patient care, innovation, and leadership from London’s Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) nursing community.”

RCN also noted that there were more nominations received this year. Two of the awardees are our fellow Filipinos, Roberto Avila and Grace Nabus. Let’s get to know our very own Rising Stars 2020.

Roberto, also known as Bob or RJ to his colleagues and friends, is a Thrombolysis Nurse and a Deputy Charge Nurse in the Hyperacute Unit in one of the NHS Trusts in Central London. He is a proud Cebuano. And since arriving here in the UK, he has been involved in many projects that help new nurses arriving in their trust. He started by assisting in the onboarding of new nurses especially in their OSCE preparation.

A few years into his UK nursing career, RJ was awarded a fellowship from the Chief Nurse of his trust. For his fellowship project, he observed that trust policies are not always applicable with what is happening in the floor. He interviewed colleagues and heard their concerns.

RJ saw the opportunity to address this through his initiative Project Voice.

VOICE stands for Values Based, Openness to Change, Inclusivity, Cohesion and collaboration and Equity

This project is aimed towards creating a culture of openness, inclusivity, and collaboration. All staff, from porters, HCAs, nurses, doctors to the management are given a voice. Opinions from all staff, regardless of band, race & gender, will be respected and considered.

Aside from this project, he and his manager also started a newsletter in their unit. The newsletter was a way to disseminate information across the group. It was a good medium for the whole team to know more about each other, get everyone involved in ward projects and celebrate achievements across the ward. The newsletter received good feedback from the whole team including the Lead Consultant of their Stroke unit. It helped in building camaraderie and positivity amongst the team.

These are just few of the key projects RJ has been involved in, to help his unit. He adds that his duty of care does not stop on his patients only, it also extends to his whole team. He has seen the importance of having highly motivated staff, especially at the current times. RJ sees the value of everyone & advocates for equity, inclusivity & openness in communication. Roberto embodies the qualities of Rising Star Nurse.

Grace is from Baguio City and is a proud Igorot. Here in the UK, she is a Senior Nurse specialising in Training at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea (RHC). During the first wave of the of the pandemic in London, Grace recognised the detrimental effect it had on the staff’s mental health and how it can potentially endanger the care they provide to patients.

Whilst battling concerns about her own health, she stepped up to do the job of settling her colleague’s emotions and distress to a manageable level with her calm and constant presence. Before lockdown, there were few guidance and information about COVID 19 and the use of PPEs available for social care. She did her own research using government latest guidelines and tailored their training to the specific needs of the staff. This, and her encouragement, empowered staff to confidently perform their duties. Her initiative was well received and rolled out to other staff in their organisation.

As with everywhere, there has been a shortage of staff during this pandemic. Grace deputised and lead the staff into maintaining safe levels of care by ensuring there are staff available in the wards and if there are none, volunteered herself to any job role required, in her commitment to support the staff. She took the responsibility of fixing the rotas, accommodation of staff, audits, quarterly reports, on top of the other operational work and managing the additional strain caused by the pandemic. She was involved in training the army personnel who were called upon to help the RHC during the peak of the pandemic.

Indeed, this may be deemed simply a part of her regular duties as a Nurse. For Grace, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the best of her abilities while performing her normal duties. She showed resilience, took the initiative & stepped up to support her colleagues. She did her ordinary duties extraordinarily well… everyday.

Hear more from RJ and Grace.

How did you feel when you first learned about the award?

RJ: Few months ago, I was asked by my mentor if he can nominate me for the RCN Rising Star 2020. I knew about the nomination but did not give much thought of it. On of my days off, I was out shopping when I received an email from RCN London. What a shock! I could not believe it. RCN confirmed that I have been chosen as one of the rising stars awardee for this year. I felt proud so to represent Filipino nurses. Filipinos are now finally being recognised.

Grace: I did not really know about it! I was surprised when I heard about the news that I was nominated, more so, I won. I could not believe it but I am really pleased and grateful that my work has been recognised.

When my manager and my colleagues heard about the news, they were incredibly pleased too.

When I was about to receive my award, all I wanted was a photograph from our governor. Little did I know that they were planning a secret celebration. It was such a lovely surprise!

How has 2020 been for you?

Grace: It has been a challenging year. I have lost friends due to COVID-19. Lots of our plans have been cancelled. I have not seen my family including my sister who is here in the UK since March. It has been physically & emotionally draining. But we must rise from these challenges.

2020 is the Year of Nurses and Midwives. We may not have the celebrations and festivities we hoped for this year, but our hard work is highlighted more so during this pandemic. I hope the world recognises more how important we nurses are.

RJ: I can say that 2020 is my redemption year. 2019 broke me. My father passed away last year. I was going through a lot of stress. Career wise, I have tried to apply for several roles before I was offered my current role. I told myself 2020 will be a better year for me. I was excited. Then COVID-19 happened. I had to put my plans on hold for the time being and focus on my duty. More so, we had to transfer the whole unit to another hospital site. It was stressful but fulfilling too. We had the unprecedented task to create the 1st ever Neuro A&E in England and our team delivered.

Do you have any advise to our fellow nurses?

Grace: Take PRIDE in what you do.

Pride. Be proud of your profession and be proud of your identity.

Resilience. A lot of Filipinos have that anyway. There would be changes. You need to adapt quickly.

Inspiration. Be inspired & be an inspiration to others.

Determination. I think a lot of Filipinos have these characteristics as well. Our determination can lead us to places—it can help us improve and succeed in life.

Enhance people’s lives, including yours. Join professional organisations that represent you or find that sense of belongingness.

Most importantly, in looking after others, don’t forget to look after yourself.

RJ: Do not be afraid to speak out and be vocal. The key to making people feel your presence is through voicing out your thoughts. Speak out if you think something is wrong. That’s how we are taught in the Philippines. We are trained like a military, we are trained that we need to prioritise what’s right for the patient.

Take care of yourself, including your mental health. Most of us are alone in this country, make an extra effort to take care of yourself. Save money in an acceptable manner, don’t deprive yourself on things that would make you happy. Strike a balance.

Don’t pull people downwards. Instead lift them up. Stop the “Crab Mentality”.

Remember, you are Filipino. Don’t shy away from your heritage. We are amazing nurses and we become amazing/better if we work together.

Congratulations RJ and Grace! Mabuhay kayo! We are proud of you both!

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