May Parsons: The Filipino Nurse Leader who Administered the 1st Covid-19 Vaccine

The Covid 19 vaccine was a tremendous breakthrough to our ongoing battle with our common enemy - the Coronavirus. As the world celebrated for the first ever Covid vaccine, Matron May Parsons was beaming with pride as she took part with the administration of the vaccine. “I was so proud to contribute to stopping the pandemic.”, she exclaimed in one of her TV interviews. And so are we, Matron!


Who is May Parsons? To learn more about her, we asked some questions that will surely resonate to Filipino nurses to be inspired and achieve more in their nursing career path. With her passion to keep patients safe and dedication to be a transformative leader, she is truly a pride for Filipino nurses around the world. She also gave us pieces of advice on how to excel with our nursing career, how to overcome challenges and her take about the vaccine.

Can you tell us about your current role as a nurse and a glimpse of your life outside work?

I'm currently a Modern Matron for Education and Escalation and also Interim Modern Matron for Respiratory. I started my training in 1996 at UST College of Nursing and got my professional registration in 2000. I am married to Brynn and have 2 children. I have few hobbies like sewing for which I made uniform bags and face masks for my colleagues and patients at UHCW. My family and I like going for walks with our dogs. I personally enjoy crocheting, cross stitch, and reading when I get the time.


Can you tell us about your career path?


I started as a scrub nurse in operating theatres and have gained a job in the UK as a scrub nurse. I moved into the Post Anaesthetic Care Unit / Recovery Area after a few years and have had specialist training for High Dependency Unit care and Overnight Intensive Recovery. I worked night shifts covering emergency and maternity services. I stayed on nights so I could look after my kids and when my youngest was in year 5, that when I went for promotion as a PACU Sister. I went for another promotion a few months later to realise my passion for teaching and has secured a Clinical Education Lead for Gerontology. As part of our Trust's winter plans, I gained my current job role of Matron for Education and Escalation in Medicine Group in 2019.


What was your biggest challenge as a Filipino nurse leader working in the UK? What did you learn from it?

In our Filipino culture, we are respectful of our elders and betters. My biggest challenge was practicing my leadership confidence and assertiveness. To help with these, I have actively sought the support of my managers to allow me to attend leadership courses which helped paved the way for my understanding and appreciation of what it entails to become an effective, compassionate and transformative leader.

I have since learned that the values ingrained in me by my family has not only strengthened but also confirmed the type of leader I want to be-- a compassionate, honest, respectful and transformative leader which underpins all the values I hold dear.



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

I would advise anyone to work hard, be passionate about the work that you do, always be curious and strive to be better, share the knowledge and best practice, be committed and do your best for your patients, yourself and your colleagues.


What was your reaction when you learned that you will give the 1st Covid-19 vaccine?

May Parsons (Source: CNN)

I was very grateful and honoured to be chosen to do it. I have been passionate about giving the Flu vaccines to my colleagues and have been the highest peer vaccinator in my trust since I have taken on the role as peer vaccinator. I am passionate about delivering the flu jab to my colleagues and will take it around to the wards and offering it to them where they work. I have vaccinated 140 staff in one day and continue to vaccinate them when they ask for it even when I'm busy. This is why I have been chosen because of the passion and dedication to the task I have been given.


There are still some people, particularly healthcare workers who have doubts with the Covid-19 vaccine. What advice can you tell them?


There is no doubt about the devastation the virus had cost in human lives and specifically to BAME health workers. We need to start educating in the science of vaccines where it has historically saved millions of lives, measles, polio, tuberculosis to name a few. Where there are doubts, there will be gaps in the knowledge and this is where our responsibility lies as carers as well as educators. We need to start educating our peers the value of vaccination and the protection it offers us. We need to act as role models as well as evidence based practitioners.

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