Five differences being a nurse in the UK from the Philippines

I worked as a nurse in the Philippines for more than 2 years specifically in medical wards and Emergency Department. In 2016, I moved to the UK where I also initially worked in wards before moving to ICU. I would say there are few differences in working as a nurse in both countries aside from the salaries. Here are some of those:

1.Free Training, Seminars and Courses in UK.

This is one of the things I liked the most about working in UK. There’s loads of opportunities for learning and growth provided by the hospitals for free. Going for training and study days are very much encouraged here for nurses to be updated of new policies and practices and to refresh our knowledge. Best part of this; it is not just free but you are also being paid for it as it is included on your working hours!

Whilst it is a must to go for specific trainings in the Philippines like Basic Life Support(BLS), and Venipuncture/Cannulation, we have to pay for those trainings to be completed. I have not experienced going for any courses or seminars for free back home. Some of these are even being deducted from our salary if we have to go for such.

2. In Philippines, we are expected to do and know everything. In UK, we got the whole healthcare team with us.

When I started working in UK, I am so amazed by how many people I have to work with while caring for my patients (the consultants, residents on duty, physiotherapists, dieticians, social worker, occupational therapists, pharmacists, nurse specialists, healthcare assistants, etc). You work as a team with them and you need to know when to refer to them. In the wards, there are also multidisciplinary meetings which happen once or twice per week. This is where the whole healthcare team discuss the plans for patients and decide right away when is the possible discharge date.

In the Philippines, we don’t have all these healthcare team with us. So, most of the time, it will just be you as a nurse, our head nurses, the residents on duty and the consultant. The consultant is the main person to decide what is the plan for patient’s care. Consultants stay in the hospital for less than an hour and visit other hospitals as well. So if there is any problem with our patients, we have to rely on the resident on duty. Sometimes, even the residents are busy and cannot attend right away and so you have to work it out yourself with other nurses. This where your independent nursing skills and judgement gets put to work. You auscultate the patients, do ECG, you put an iv cannula and catheter if needed. You don’t have to be told by doctors to do this if your assessment warrants so. Sometimes we are the one calling and referring the patients to the consultants whenever patients become poorly and thus your assessment skills are very vital.

Personally, I feel more valued as a nurse here in UK as I feel like my voice and opinion regarding my patient’s care is being heard; You are a big part of the team. Speaking up for patient and approaching the doctors about what you think is best for patient’s care and interest isn’t a difficult thing to do, less intimidating and never frowned upon.

3. Nursing in Philippines is very medical. Nursing in UK is very compassionate.

As I have mentioned previously, we have to be knowledgeable medically. Thus even during our nursing school, we are taught to memorise the anatomy and physiology, the different diseases, its signs and symptoms, the medical management and nursing interventions. We are expected to know most of the important drugs and their common effects and interactions. Working as a nurse in the Philippines, you have to work independently. The doctors expects you to know the case of your patient really well. We tend to work more of the clinical side.

In the UK, nursing is not just looking at a patient medically as we have the rest of the healthcare team to help us with that. We are always encouraged to provide a compassionate care not only towards the patients but also for their families. It is very important here to be kind, to respect the wishes and opinions, and to listen and empathise with the patient and the family whilst meeting their needs. You just don’t attend to a patient medically but you also look at them as a whole. You question; how is the mobility? Are the pressure areas intact? How to manage their incontinence? Will they be able to manage at home? Who is going to be looking after them when they are discharged? Is there any safeguarding issues to address? And there are so many more.

4.There is a good work and life balance in UK.

I think this is the best thing that I get from working as nurse here in England. We are required to work only 37.5 hours in a week compared to 48 hours I do in the Philippines. Hence, I am able to get 3-4 days off if I won’t be doing any extra shifts at work. We do 12-hour shifts here so that means you will only be doing either day or night. In the Philippines, I barely can do overtime as I only have 3 days off for 2 weeks since we work there on an 8-hour shift basis. Although this can vary on which hospital you are actually working. Work in the Philippines can either be 6AM-2PM, 2PM-10PM, and 10PM- 6AM. Sometimes, you have to do 12 hours especially if it is understaffed or someone went off sick.

Annual leave is also much better in the UK. I am entitled to 255 hours, or 6-7 weeks of paid annual leave, when I started my nursing career here. Getting the annual leave here isn’t as difficult compared to back home. So planning for holidays is easier and better. In the Philippines, I can only get 5 days of paid leave in my first year of working although additional 2-3 leave days are being given every year.

5. Nursing in UK is the ideal.

I remember when I was in university taking my nursing degree, most of the books we actually used in our nursing subjects are similar to those they use in America. Thus everything we were actually learning in the university is slightly different from what we see in the hospitals. This is understandable because we have very different set up here in the Philippines than in America. There are a lot of things we are lacking here especially in public hospitals thus we have to be resourceful, flexible and adaptable.

When I started to work as a nurse this is still true. We try to maximise all our resources especially that the healthcare in the Philippines is not free and many families don’t have health insurance. Aside from this some facilities are not available in some hospitals like CT Scan, MRI, ABG machines or ICU. Thus many patients have their treatment delayed. Sometimes it also takes a while for some patients to be seen by specialists because of financial issues.

In the UK, I would say, it is very ideal. You see what you actually read in the book. The healthcare is free and they have complete facilities. It is called the National Health Service or NHS. I would say that it is not actually free because a percentage of our salary actually goes here and that is where they get some of the funding for this. NHS have good referral systems between hospitals and their Emergency services are very efficient. Therefore, emergency treatment and procedures are being done right away. Every citizen here gets an equal service, and it doesn’t matter if you are homeless or poor. You will get the same treatment and services that you need like everybody else. There is a standardised guidelines as well in every trust that they follow which are being reviewed and updated every time.

I can only imagine that the citizens in my home country will get the same treatment and services we are giving here in NHS. Even though many people criticise it for its loopholes, I would say, it is not perfect but it is still something to be proud of. It saves a lot of lives, gives excellent care, without you thinking where to get the money or if you’ll lose your house the next day. I can only imagine that Philippines will also treat their nurses like they do here,with proper benefits and salary, where working abroad will not be necessary anymore.

And there you go!

Those are the five main things that differs between the nursing in the Philippines and UK. Of course, all of this is based according to my own experience and my colleagues experiences who worked in different hospitals (Just in case, some of you may have different experience as listed above). Some of you maybe looking to see how different is the salary here compared to the Philippines. Well, I think it is already given that the salary here is better than the latter, so I did not include it on my list anymore. But if you want to know how different it is then keep following this page as I will make another post about that soon!

What are your insights about this topic? Let me know! Comment it below.