I’m sorry for the super late update. It has been crazy these past few months, and I’ve been busy with a lot of shenanigans (read: full-time job + OFW struggles + trying to be independent in a foreign country). That aside, this is a continuation of my previous post, and here I will discuss what happens when you finally, finally, get to the UK.
So after being granted your visa and saying your tearful goodbye to your family and friends, the next step is obviously to fly to the UK. Every airline has different luggage allowances, so my tip would be to check with your airline and adhere to their requirements for a hassle-free flight. Also, it would be good to research which Terminal/Bay you should be boarding so as not to get lost. I was very fortunate to have my college classmate and other new-found friends when I traveled because they were more experienced in international travel than I am.
Eventually, I made it to the UK and thus a new chapter of my life started. It wasn’t smooth-sailing and there were hurdles, but let’s get to that later. Here is the chronology of events that transpired the very first time I stepped foot on English soil. Mind you, everyone’s experience is different, and this is just mine, so you may want to still ask around and take my words with a grain of salt.
Also, since this post has been long overdue, it will be quite lengthy so BEWARE: THIS IS A LONG READ.
My employer gave free accomodation to me and my friend, and it’s within the hospital compound. It’s literally 3 minutes away from the hospital, which I found extremely convenient. It was so unlike my home in the Philippines. To begin with, it’s an apartment complex, with shared toilet, bath and kitchen. Initially there were only two of us who stayed in the flat, but in 2 months another Filipina nurse joined us. The rent was free for the first month and then I had to pay 450pounds for the succeeding months. This fee included taxes and charges for water and electricity. It was deducted from my salary.
II. Cash Advance
Upon arrival, my employer also provided me with cash advance to tide me over the month until I can get my bank account sorted. This amount is variable and it depends on the employer, so check it with your agency and employer first. It is also a good idea to bring your own money when you leave the Philippines so that you won’t run short. In my case, I arrived in the UK in December, and I didn’t have much winter-related things with me, so I had to buy some stuff as well as food. I was very fortunate to have met fellow Filipinos who assisted me and my friend to get settled. One gave me a duvet and the other drove us to the grocery store to buy rice (a staple food!). He also helped us get SIM cards so that we can contact our families in the Philippines. I could never be thankful enough to Ate Maria, Aldons and Ate Anna for their help during my vulnerable moments. Maraming Salamat po talaga!
The moment you arrive in the UK, the first thing the immigration officer would tell you is to get your BRP ID within a month of arrival because your visa is only valid for a month. After which, you will have to have your BRP with you at all times as form of identification. The BRP allows you to stay and work in the UK for 3 years, after which you’ll have to reapply. The BRP ID will be sent to your nearest post office and you will have to claim it. I had a few problems with my BRP ID (the first time, it arrived late so then I could not open a bank account, hence I did not get paid for my first month. Next, I lost it, and had to apply for a replacement.) My advice would be to KEEP IT SAFE AT ALL TIMES! Keep it with you and don’t put it in your trousers like I did. Also, if it arrives late, don’t worry, just wait for a week or so. If in a week it still hasn’t arrived, contact the Home Office and tell them of the issue. They respond promptly but you’ll have to be patient. You can learn more about BRP IDs here.
IV. Bank Account
After getting the BRP, what I did next was to set up a bank account. This wasn’t also smooth-sailing for me because I had to wait for my BRP ID before I could set up an account, and it took me a month before I could do so. Anyways, the staff at HSBC were very helpful and accomodating, so it was pretty much a breeze afterwards. Your employer may have a different preferred bank, and they may require different documents, but just bring along your passport, your contract, your BRP ID and other supporting documents such as a driver’s license (if you have one), your birth certificate, police clearance (NBI) or your letter of sponsorship from your employer.
V. Getting Settled
Once all these paperwork are done, the next thing that occupied my time and effort was actually getting settled in a new environment. It’s difficult, honestly, and even after 7 months of being here in the UK, I still find it challenging to adjust to this new life. I will dedicate a separate blog post for this but generally, I can say that life in the Philippines is extremely different from what I have now. There are language and cultural barriers, weather differences and the fact that all your support system are miles away. Life here in the UK can get very lonely, and if you don’t have much fight in you, it will be very easy to succumb to sadness and possibly depression. It’s a good idea to seek out company in the form of fellow Pinoys, and welcome friends from other nationalities. Also, try to get a hobby (I’ve taken up cross-stitching and reading novels) so as to occupy your mind. More on this in a separate post.
This is the most important challenge that you have to face once you’re in the UK. The OSCE stands for Objective Structured Clinical Examination. Basically, it’s a practical examination that consists of 6 parts: Assessment, Planning, Implementation, Evaluation and 2 Nursing Skills. Preparation for the OSCE varies from one institution to the other, and there isn’t really a guidebook, aside from the Royal Marsden book which is used by nursing students here in the UK. However, the Royal Marsden isn’t really a guide for the OSCE. Rather, it is a book which contains general nursing knowledge and skills, pretty much similar to Kozier and Erb’s Fundamentals of Nursing Book. It is important to really read and digest the nursing skills and principles indicated in the Royal Marsden because UK nursing practice is very different from the American nursing practice — in which us Filipino nurses are trained– and so when I was preparing for the OSCE, I had a lot of unlearning to do.
I took the OSCE twice. The first time, I failed the exam and I think this was because I wasn’t fully prepared. I didn’t have adequate materials and frankly, I didn’t have any idea about the examination. True, I knew it was a practical exam, but back then it didn’t really sunk on me what it means. The feedback I got from NMC told me that I failed in the Assessment part because I miscalculated the NEWS (which stands for National Early Warning Score. It’s a system that measures the patient’s vital signs and depending on the “score”, it tells the healthcare professional how frequent to monitor the patient. Getting it wrong is a critical fail, meaning even if you got other aspects of the assessment right, if you get a wrong NEWS, then you still fail that part of the OSCE) and I also failed Evaluation, because I documented a drug as given, although it wasn’t– which is a critical fail once more because it translates to wrong documentation.
During my time, if you fail one aspect of the APIE, you will re-sit the exam and do all the 4 parts again, even if you only failed one part. For example, in my case, I failed Assessment and Evaluation, so that means that even though I did well in Planning and Implementation, I have to re-sit all Assessment, Planning, Implementation and Evaluation aspects of the OSCE. When it comes to the nursing skills however, if you fail one skill but did well in the APIE, you will only re-sit two skills. But if you failed both in APIE and skills, you’ll re-take the entire exam.
Nowadays though, I heard from other candidates that the system had changed. You will only re-sit whichever part you failed in. Which is a good thing, to be honest, because it’s just silly to do the entire exam all over again just because you failed one part. Lucky for those who’ll be taking the OSCE in the days to come.
Anyway, the second time I took the exam, I made sure I was prepared and knew what to do. I studied and focused on my mistakes. I also took rest periods, unlike the first time I prepared for the exam where I burned my midnight oil almost every night. The preparation wasn’t less stressful though. My colleagues at work all knew that I failed the OSCE, so it was embarrassing. Also, not to brag, but I have never failed an examination in my life. I mean, I passed my licensure exam in one take, my IELTS and NCLEX in one take as well, so when I failed my OSCE I was shaken and I felt so stupid. I redeemed myself in my re-sit however, and I emerged victorious. Hence, I now have more letters after my name: USRN + UKRN + RN. Soon, it will be MAN, PhD. Just wait for it.
VII. Surviving post-OSCE
After the OSCE, your problems aren’t done yet. Once you’ve passed the OSCE you’ll have to register with the NMC. For this you have to:
- Log on to the NMC website
- Pay 153pounds for the registration
- The NMC will send you two emails: one is an affirmation that they have received your payment, and the next one would be to say that you already have your PIN
- Click the link and see your PIN
- Cry because 153 pounds is no joke, especially when you have to remit money to your family back to the Philippines.
Once you get your PIN, inform your ward matron and payroll department so that they can upgrade your salary to Band 5. Congratulations! You are now officially a UKRN and you will be paying more taxes! Hooray! (I’m being totally sarcastic). Now you can go on bank shifts and work until you’re stressed up to your eyeballs! Lol.
Kidding aside, in my opinion, life starts after your OSCE. I mean, you can finally focus on your job and everyday survival. You’re finally free from the stress of studying + Working + doing the laundry and cooking. Now it’s just the stress of working + laundry + cooking. One less problem, yeah?
I guess that summarizes the initial struggles that a Pinoy nurse have to hurdle in order to get their UK dream. Again, experiences vary, and these are mine. They might be different from other Pinoys out there, so just take my words with caution. Regardless, I hope I was able to help. If you have other helpful experiences as well, share them and let’s support our fellow Pinoy nurses who would also like to embark on this journey. Remember, “sino pang magtutulungan kundi tayo-tayo rin?”
‘Til next blog post!