Updated: Jan 8
What a year 2022 was for me. It’s my first full year of being an overseas nurse in the UK, far away from family and friends. It’s a year of self-discovery filled with great life lessons. Here are my key take-aways:
• Resourcefulness is key to survival. Living in the UK is not cheap, especially the past few months with the increase in energy costs. Aside from the soaring gas & electricity bills, rentals for accommodation are also are on the rise. There are creative ways where one can still live a good life here in the UK. Key is being resourceful! From using discount vouchers, comparing prices, swapping food dishes with friends, shopping in thrift & charity shops—I’ve learned all this, and it has helped me survive the UK.
• It’s ok not to be ok. There were days when I was not feeling well mental health wise. At times, I ignored or brushed it off. I did not tell a soul about it and bottled it in. It carried on even when things were not getting any better until I just could not take it anymore and had a meltdown. One of my colleagues saw me burst into tears and comforted me. Although I felt relieved initially, I felt slightly embarrassed and yet it was as if a big burden has been lifted from my shoulders. I realised in that moment, that my mental health is equally important as other aspects of my life. I feel fortunate that I’m in a country that values mental health and normalise discussions on mental wellbeing.
• You don’t receive if you don’t ask. Seeking help and receiving help from others are not signs of weakness. There are times when we really need some support or help from others. But for other people to understand our situation and provide help, we need to have the courage to ask. Being an overseas nurse, I find it awkward to speak up when I need to. However, I observed that being quiet can convey that I agree with what I am told or as if I do not care. To speak up and ask allows me to share my thoughts and open a dialogue to discuss collaboration. Asking for what you want or need is actually the first step to a win-win situation.
• The grass is green wherever I stand. I always wanted to seek for better opportunities, and I was encouraged to move where pastures are better coming from the Philippines. My transfer to the UK was motivated by progress. There was nothing wrong with my journey to seek for better things, however my burden was that I was always envious of other people. I felt discontent and unhappy. I realised that for me to be happy that I must stop comparing myself to others and make the most of what I have and where I am now. My current workplace is not perfect, and one might find many things for it to improve on, but I am working with great people and there are potential opportunities. I found that there is great value in any situation if we choose to look at it in a positive light.
• I am unique and that’s worth celebrating. There are occasions where I felt different, starting from my accent, how I look and even my way of thinking makes me feel off in my new workplace. At first, I dread the idea of being different and not being able to fit in. Luckily, my colleagues did not make me feel that way. Instead, they encourage me to be myself and celebrate my unique personality. They have empowered me and in turn, it gave me confidence to be better at my profession.
• I am unique and so are others too. Aside from learning how to celebrate my individuality, I also learned to respect other people’s differences may it be culture, gender, sexual preference, or belief. Respect and tolerance are important in our profession and in working within a team. Being self-aware is important and if we are aware of our own biases, we can be sensitive to others needs and improve how we communicate with everyone. In recognising everyone’s uniqueness then we become allies to our neighbours.
• Practice makes progress. My first few months were the toughest for me. It was a time of adjustment in my new work environment, new colleagues and new life. Initially I made many mistakes which led me to doubt myself . Despite this I told myself, “I am a fighter!” No matter how difficult my shift was, I must carry on, aiming to be better every day. With much perseverance I found my own flow at work and gained confidence. It takes time and practicing everyday with purpose leads to progress. I just had to take it one shift a time.
In my first year as an overseas nurse in the UK, I experienced many challenges. Perhaps some of my experience is also shared by members of our community, and so I share the valuable lessons I learned in the hope that we can all move forward with our goals here in the UK. To me it was never easy but with the support of family, friends and colleagues I stood tall at the end of 2022 ready to face new hurdles in 2023.