Why I moved from NHS to Care Home as an Overseas Nurse

Updated: Jan 18

by: Rogie delos Santos

Deciding to change career can mean sleepless nights to some while it can also be done in a heart beat for others. I belong to the latter. I instantly convinced myself to pivot my nursing career from the NHS to Private health care in a care home setting. Up to this day, I had no regrets and I knew I made the right choice.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t an easy decision to leave the NHS and move to an area I wasn’t familiar with. Like most Filipino nurses in the UK, working abroad is not just all about career opportunities but also provides a huge impact on a family's finances. This was the main reason why I decided to leave the NHS and venture in a private care home.

I arrived in the UK under a Tier 2 visa in June 2019 and started working as a staff nurse in a NHS Trust in the southwest. I passed my OSCE, became a UKRN and worked in the same Trust as a trauma nurse. I got the needed financial boost I was hoping for as an OFW. I also managed to have the optimal work - life balance as I work 37.5 hours per week. I normally get 3 to 4 days off in a week as we normally do long day shift patterns. Everything was going well until the first winter arrived.

With the cold and gloomy winter, I have experienced my first big struggle as an OFW, being alone. Although I was living with some of my colleagues in a shared home, I still long for my family. As the loneliness creeped in, I also felt powerless as my plans to bring my wife and child at least two months after passing the OSCE didn’t happen. It’s been six months at that point, and I’m still alone. The primary reason is lack of funds.

An opportunity came one day as I received a call from an agent who offered me a position in a private home care in Sheffield. I heard the pitch and I did not hesitate to say yes to the offer right there and then. The offer was significantly higher than my current salary. With an hourly rate of £17-£25, I vouch that salary in a private care home is almost twice higher than an entry level Band 5 nurse.

As I’ve only been working in the NHS Trust for a year before I decided to move jobs, my current employer bought my contract out. This is not for free though and the payments were deducted from my salary. Considering what the offer is, I was able to pay it in six months.

The drawback of this job is that sick leave is unpaid but can be arranged to be deducted from my allotted annual leave. Additionally, I wouldn’t get the lucrative NHS pension but at least I was offered a private pension. As I analyse my situation and needs, the advantage of getting a higher income outweighed the disadvantages of working in a private care home.

Whilst I’m aware that hospital settings will be different in a care home setting, I realised that the working environment and work style also varies from nursing care home to a residential care home. I was fortunate to work in a mixed home consisting of two nursing units and two residential units. The home care routine includes medication administration and some nursing procedures like catheterization, stoma care, wound dressing and occasional injections. A common idea is that home care nursing is laid back, which it is, if you know what you are doing.

With a decade of working as a nurse in the hospital, my daily duties are dependent on doctor’s orders along with independent nursing interventions. As I’ve done my first night shift in the nursing home, I realised that more autonomy is involved and the most important skill in this setting is proper assessment and planning. In the NHS, band 6’s and 7’s concentrate on putting up policies for the band 5s to follow whilst in the home care setting, policies are normally set up after careful consideration from feedback of bedside nurses. Hence, critical thinking and proper assessment is essential to appropriately make decisions whether to call 111 or 999.

I opted to work four days in a week since I find that working in a care home is more manageable than when I was in hospital. Residents stay around 2 weeks to 1 month in the nursing unit and that makes it easier to know them and have an idea of what they need. This also makes handover simpler because there’s only a few to almost no follow-up out of duty calls. Working with the same people also helps a lot.

I think transferring to the home care industry from the NHS is a good move. I just advise that before you make this decision, ensure that you’ve familiarised yourself on how nursing and the healthcare system in the UK operates and how to work around it. This will make your transition much smoother.

It’s really interesting to recall that about a year ago I was handing over a patient to a home care nurse and now I am on the receiving end of that call. I’m certain that I made the right decision that working in a private home care is worthwhile and the right choice for me. It’s very practical. I get to practice the holistic side of nursing where activities of daily living (ADLs) are prioritised. I get to talk and get to know the residents on a more personal level and I have learned a lot from their stories. I may not have the prestige of having a Band 6 or Band 7 title but this being a care home nurse is a fulfilling role in its own way.

Are you wondering how it is moving from Carehome to NHS? Read the story of Francis & learn more about his journey.

About the Author:

Rogie is a care home nurse based in Sheffield and have worked as a Trauma nurse in a NHS Trust in the southwest. He is also engaged in digital production and teachings on the side and an active member of Philippine Nurses Association UK.

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