Posted in Careers, Filipino, friendship, london

5 reasons why catching up with college friends is awesome

Last weekend, my friend Jo arrived in London – the first leg of his “dirty 30” trip which will see him travelling to 42 different countries. I thought I’d take advantage of his visit to organise a semi-reunion for other people in my year who are also living in London. I booked a table at The Garden Gate so we could have drinks like proper adults (lol) and pretend we like Sunday roasts when really we just wanted to go have dim sum in Chinatown (where they have rice, a big deal for some of us! :p).

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Velez College, College of Nursing Batch 2008, London Chapter (lol)

It was one of the best weekend I’ve had in ages. Don’t get me wrong: I am a big believer in expanding my social circle and meeting new people, everyone knows that. However, there’s something to be said about being people who went through the same experience as you did, who knew you before you shed all your baby fat, who knew you when you perhaps weren’t quite at your best. Here are some of the reasons why catching up with college friends is a blast.

They get your jokes.

I’ve always felt really self-conscious about making wisecracks and jokes because English isn’t my first language. I think some of the punchlines fall a little bit short sometimes because something gets lost in translation. Speaking in my native tongue, in my city’s dialect in fact, changes that. Not only is it comfortable, there are some truly funny words in the Cebuano dialect that just do not have an English equivalent. You also laugh over the same things and you’re not too worried about offending anyone because, let’s face it, its not like the Philippines is all that concerned about political correctness. So yesterday I’ve laughed harder than I’ve had in a long long time.

There’s always good gossip.

I don’t mean gossip in a bad way; and its not like we spent the night digging up scandals about our former classmates. But it was just a great way of catching up with the other people in our year as well, kind of like a “where are they now?” kind of thing. Or because we’re at that age where everyone is settling down into relationships, it would be more accurate to say that the topic of conversation is more like “Who married who?” and “Who’s still single?” and “Will so and so end up with so and so?”. Also, we were a class of 250 students give or take a few; everyone’s romantic history (from the scandalous to the disastrous) is an open secret – and a cause for much reminiscing and good-natured ribbing.

No one else will ever quite get the “Velez College” experience.

Studying Nursing is difficult enough; at Velez College they make it extra hard on purpose. There’s no one who will understand the experience quite like a Velezian. Swapping stories of our college days, the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the tough times and the times that have us aching with laughter…I truly think its good for the soul. We’re able to look at that experience and where we are now and have a laugh. And realise that it was all worth it, because it helped us to get where we are. Dean Lumbab, wherever you are, I hope you’re looking down on us and feeling proud of the school that, whilst it doesn’t bear your name, is a school that you built on your meticulous standards and principles. 

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Proud Velezians taking a photo at that famous red phone booth

Everyone’s made it, one way or the other.

There are different measures for success. And as one of my students once said, when everything’s said and done success without happiness is the worst kind of failure. Whether you’ve climbed the career ladder or raised a beautiful baby boy (or girl), it warms the heart to see everyone make the best of their lives.

You can be yourself.

Transformation and starting over are all good things. I truly believe that a person shouldn’t be placed in a box. There’s always room for you to grow and reinvent yourself. The reason why I love London so much is because I have the freedom to try new things, things that no one who knew me would ever have dreamt I do. Like muay thai for example. I was 30 pounds (15 kilos) overweight in college for god’s sake, I could barely complete a circle around the track in the local sports complex. So I was happy to be in a country where no one knew me and where I’m not being oppressed by people’s preconceived notions of who I am.

But.

Sometimes its good to remember that girl who struggled to accept her looks and her body; who spent four years nurturing hopes of getting out of the friend zone; who was perhaps not as confident but who learned that you should never let them see you sweat. I am grateful that I was once that girl, and I like being reminded of it in case I ever get too high on my high horse. There’s nothing like a good college reunion to remind you to be grounded in humility, BELIEVE ME

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It truly pains me to post these photos!
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Its safe to say I have no good photos of me BEFORE 2008
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These photos are a reminder to GO TO THE BLOODY GYM. hahahah

With these guys, there’s no use pretending to be anything other than you are because they’ve seen you at your worst. They call you on your bullshit because they’ve earned that right by virtue of the length of your acquaintance, and the experiences you’ve shared. So really, all that’s left to do is just be yourself – well maybe, a slightly better, much improved version. Angela 2.0.

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ahh, much better. :p

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We don’t get to go out as much; adulting means we’ve got responsibilities now so we can’t stay up as late as we used to. By 11pm, people were already thinking about the long day shifts they were doing the next day rather than who’s pouring the next shot of whiskey. Still, I had a lovely time catching up with my friends over Jack Daniels and Coke, and I will continue to look forward to the next time we can all come together.

 

Posted in Careers, london, Medical, Nursing

Chronicles of a theatre nurse: Chapter Two – Periacetabular Osteotomy and Hip Preservation

I was researching some images and videos over the weekend for a presentation that I had to do at work when I came across this video. Watching it and hearing testimonials from patients that have had their quality of life improved by this procedure really highlights everything about my work that I’m proud of. I also have a blink-and-you’ll-miss appearance on it! 

I’ve worked with Mr. Witt since I started at UCLH . I did his list twice a week every week during my first 18 months and I can really say that he’s one of the best surgeons I’ve ever met. He’s very precise and meticulous about his work. As his nurse, I find his list a challenge to manage because there are so many things to organise. Surgeons are also creatures of habit; they like consistency in the people they work with and they like their tools about them when they do their work. And you can’t really blame them because what they do is so complex, the best ones just make it look easy.

I remember when we did this video and others like it. There are usually surgeons from other hospitals watching, as Mr Witt is one of the few surgeons in London to do this kind of procedure. They called him an actor’s actor because even those surgeons aim to learn from him to improve their own technique. I have to say that I often forget that because of the stress of running his list. I forget how much of a privilege it is to see him in action. This video has reminded me why, even though I do a lot of admin now, I still make it a point to scrub for him when I can.

The procedure itself is incredibly amazing. Watch the video for a better understanding but essentially it aims to help people with developmental dysplasia, a condition in which the ball of your hip does not fully fit into the socket (acetabulum) causing it to displace; eventually these abnormal movements will cause arthritis, pain and later on, the need for a hip replacement using a prostheses.

A hip replacement, as I understand it, is not the best option for young people and that’s where PAO has helped a lot. I think the idea is to prevent the need for a THR later on in life by correcting the problem with the socket. It really is an amazing surgery. Pause it at the part where the scrub nurse is passing instruments and you’ll see me in action! 

This video has filled me with inspiration to tackle the work week again. I will remind myself of this feeling the next time I have to scramble for sets or wear a heavy lead gown for 8 hours. Or the next time someone asks me to call Interserve to turn down temperature in theatres. 😉

For more information about some of the surgeries we do, visit Mr. Witt’s website.

Posted in Careers, Medical, Nursing

Chronicles of a theatre nurse: Chapter One – A day in the life

Ok, so anyone who knows me knows that I have an aversion to seeing myself on film. Photo? Sure. I’ll jump in front of a camera and strike a pose. But live action video? Aghhh. I can’t.

About 2 years ago, one of our anaesthetists asked if I could be in this short film they were doing so that people would know what its like working in our operating theatres – the highs, the lows, the challenges we face and ultimately, why we love it so much. I have to say I’ve never seen this video in its entirety. My boss recently re-posted it as part of a recruitment drive. I cringed at the thought of watching it but its actually quite good. My part in it was “engaging” and you could apparently tell I really enjoy what I do.

If I had to do this video now, would my answers be any different? Probably. Being in education poses a whole new challenge but it also comes with the sweetest rewards. One of my students just got her pin last week making her a qualified practitioner after three long years of hard work. I have another three graduating in October. Two of the staff I helped train for orthopaedics are now doing really well. There’s so much that we’ve achieved as a team and I’m so proud of the work that we do. I have that now on top of the clinical aspects which I do still love. 

Working in theatres is exciting. You never really know what your day is going to be like. You depend a lot on other people because surgery is a team effort. And I like that, I like the camarederie and rapport that comes when team members work regularly with each other. I love that I can have a laugh even when its a stressful day; I love that I’m not facing the challenges alone because I always have a team with me, both clinical- and education-wise.
Enjoy this video, blabbaholics! 

Posted in Careers, Nursing

Blood is thicker than water: things I learned from mentoring my sister

18 months ago, my sister moved to London to work at the same hospital as I do and I could not have been more chuffed. In the months before she arrived, all I could talk about was my sister and how excited I was for her to join us. And when she did arrive, I went around introducing Arlene to anyone and everyone. For weeks every time I see someone the first words out of my mouth would be “have you met my sister?” Now that would be fine if Arlene loved being the center of attention (like her big sister lol) but she’s not: she’s a bit shy and reserved when it comes to people she doesn’t know well and she doesn’t let people in easily (unlike me, who’s Ms Congeniality). Although we share the same interests, we are as different as two people could be.

I’ve been teaching my sister as far back as when she was still studying at uni. I started my teaching career as a clinical instructor in the Philippines and my sister was one of my students. It was awkward as hell, but also a lot of fun. Of course I had to be careful to be professional and impartial, and for the most part I achieved that. It was also good that my sister was not a problem student; in fact I think that while academically I got better grades, skills-wise and clinical-wise my sister is the better nurse. 

But that was school, where I had authority and she HAD to listen to me. Things are not quite the same when you’re colleagues. 

A couple of months ago, we were so short of practitioners for my speciality that it became imperative for me to train and develop a couple of people who had potential, my sister included. Arlene didn’t think she could do orthopaedics and left to her own devices I don’t think she would have made that choice voluntarily. However, I was always of the opinion that my sister doesn’t give herself enough credit; she is capable of anything if she puts her mind to it, all she needs is confidence. And practice. And perhaps someone to nudge her (some people would say I push but WHATEVER). And so started her career in orthopaedics, which, as everyone knows is my second all-consuming passion (career-wise anyway).

Its been an experience mentoring Arlene in orthopaedics. It felt a lot like supporting a child through a piano recital or something. There’s a reason why they call the operating room a “theatre” because it has all the elements of a performance. The surgeons and the scrub nurses put on gowns, gloves and mask (costumes!), there’s music in the background, and for me even after all these years I find it so exciting. I’m lucky enough to be in a speciality that I genuinely love. And I want my sister to love it as much as I do so I guess sometimes I get a little bit overeager. Here are some of the things that I’ve realised over the past couple of weeks working with Arlene.

There will be arguments.

This is unavoidable. Arlene is the quieter of the two of us but don’t let that deceive you. She’s strong willed and she’s got a mind of her own. So when two really strong personalities come together, clashes are inevitable. Yesterday just in the amount of time it takes to prepare for the surgery, at least three arguments and one semi-shouting match may or may not have occured in the prep room. 

I will become a stage mother.

Like I said, its like watching your kid do a piano recital. You get so anxious, and every time they miss something you feel it. You take criticisms against them personally. I have to watch myself constantly from putting too much pressure on my sister. I constantly have to readjust my expectations so that I don’t get too frustrated. Or you know, try to leave her training to someone else and not get too involved because there is NO WAY I can be detached or impartial if its a combination of Arlene and orthopaedics.

Teaching requires commitment. And you gotta love it. 

This is true of anyone I teach, regardless of whether I’m related to them or not. People don’t realise how much of myself I give when I decide to teach or train someone. Sometimes during my free time I find myself thinking of creative ways to get people to learn, or when I see something on the telly or read something from a book I immediately think about whether its something I can apply as an educator. You spend two hours every day on a one-to-one basis with these people trying to support them, giving them feedback and encouragement, helping them improve…it takes a lot out of you. But I can’t really see myself doing anything else. I’ve always loved to teach. That lightbulb moment when someone finally gets it is worth everything to me.

It will be worth it.

This week my sister scrubbed for a total hip replacement on her own for the first time, and she did marvelously. One month ago she was struggling to even understand the concept; as recently as two weeks ago she could barely muster up enthusiasm for the speciality. Last night she was enthusiastic and excited about it; it was the most animated I’ve seen her since we started this. It felt great to be sharing something that I love doing with someone I love.

At the end of the day, we will still be sisters.


There is something to be said for having a colleague who’s also family. You can always rely on unconditional love from a family member, they’re obligated to love you even when you annoy them to death. Blood is always thicker than water. 

To Arlene, I am so proud of everything you’ve achieved and everything you’re still trying to achieve. Love you shob, please continue to cook me dinner. Lol 

Posted in Brexit, Careers, london

Someone’s always saying goodbye…

Today I say goodbye to another one of my friends. I’ve always been opposed to the idea that you don’t go to work to make friends. I mean, if you’re anything like me (a little bit of a workaholic) you spend at least 37.5 hours a week at work. You have to at least try and like the people you work with. In that respect more than anything I’m lucky to be working where I’m working, because I’ve met people along the way that I can genuinely call my friends.

However, its the nature of jobs in central London to have such a high turnover rate, especially when it comes to the nursing profession. Its just too expensive to be living or commuting to London, so when opportunities come elsewhere most people jump at the chance. Add Brexit to that mix (and the unstable value of the pound versus the Euro), well, let’s just say I’ve said goodbye to far too many people in the past year. At least this last one is just leaving the hospital, not the country.

Work is going to be a much more lonelier place without her. She’s the type who won’t say much but who will speak up when it matters. She will listen to me and support me in my endeavours. On the other hand, she will let me know if there’s something I could be doing to improve things. They say you’re led to friends who will help you grow; in addition I think we are naturally attracted to people who are the opposite of us. I tend to be overexcited and sometimes overly optimistic, and most of my friends are calm, grounded people who will slow me down in a good way. Mostly, they’re people who will always be there even if its just to listen.

I hate goodbyes. I’m also not a big fan of change, however necessary it may be. Sometimes I wish I could live in an everlasting present where things would just stay the way they are. But. People have to move on to wherever life and opportunities take them, and we can only try to keep that connection despite the distance. 

To all my friends who have left or are leaving, you take a little bit of me each time with you and I will really miss you guys. 😭

Posted in Careers, Lifestyle, Stress Relief

10 Ways to Avoid Work-related Stress

Ordinarily, after a long and tiring day at work I would go home, feel frustrated and maybe post some deliberately vague status on Facebook about not letting the world get me down or shaking it off or something equally cliche. Now, I want to channel all that into a positive mental activity by making a list about how I can avoid work-related stress. I’ll post it on my blog so that I can remind myself of it the next time I have days like these and maybe help others out when they too have need of such a list. So, here’s some of the things that I compiled in my head as I was walking (tired and hungry, I might add) home from work:

 

 

A place for everything and everything in it’s place

I tend to dwell on things that have frustrated me throughout the day.  I have to learn to JUST. BLOODY. LET. GO. Yes, I can air out my frustrations, but I shouldn’t really be bringing  them home with me. Leave work at work. Furthermore, I need to remember that every day is a chance for a brand new start, a chance to change things if I really feel like there’s something that needs to be improved. I shouldn’t go on and on and on about something that happened last week; that way lies madness, and its very unproductive. Like I always say, if people were more proactive and less reactive, we would have more doers than whiners.

Have some perspective

I always thought that if we walked a mile in one another’s shoes we would be rushing to go back to our own. It’s easy to be caught up in another person’s weakness, or complain about someone not doing his or her job, or maybe complain that someone on the top of the food chain has forgotten what it’s like to be on the bottom. HOWEVER. I am of the opinion that we all could be a little more understanding of one another. Colleagues especially should learn that just because someone isn’t doing something the way you would do doesn’t mean they’re not trying their best. We should also remember that other people are facing pressures that we know nothing about. Managers don’t always know what its like to be on the shop floor working your ass off, whereas people on the shop floor don’t always know the sometimes near-desperate measures that managers have to resort to to keep things afloat. So have some perspective and put yourself in the other person’s place before you react.

Do not speak up when you’re angry

This is something my boss taught me. If the situation has escalated to a point where you are too involved and too emotional, chances are you will say things you might later regret. So if you’re feeling particularly upset (and the situation isn’t an emergency or something) walk away and come back when you’re calmer. You’ll find that you’ve gained just a little bit more clarity and perspective in the 5 minutes that you took to cool off. If you speak everything that’s on your mind in the heat of the moment, you’ll probably get instant satisfaction, but at the expense of your relationship with the other people involved in the scenario, and that will just lead to more stress. However, if you do speak up…

Stand your ground

I can be something of a pushover. I really should learn to say no, or to stop being such a people-pleaser. If there’s something I believe in, or something I see that I know isn’t right, I should speak up. If I’ve stated my opinion or position about something, I should learn not to waiver at the first sign of dissent, especially if I know I’m right.

Do not take on the problems of the world

Take responsibility only for the things that you are responsible for. I have this tendency to want to solve all the problems at work, and while that’s a noble aspiration its also a naive one. The problems of your workplace are bigger than you, you can only do so much to contribute a solution. At the end of the day, its enough that you’ve done your best. My boss tells me that when things aren’t going right, my default thinking shouldn’t be “what did I do wrong?” or “what did I fail to do?”. Instead, I should make a mental checklist of the things that I DID do, and yeah, maybe other things might have been missed but the important thing is that you tried.

Trust, develop and work with other people

I really dislike working with people who have a superhero complex. It’s like they think they’re the only ones who can save the day. Sometimes they make others look bad just so they can swoop in with a solution and make themselves look good. I think that’s wrong, and I don’t think that reflects very good teamwork. I think that if everyone on the team does well, it reflects on the whole team. tumblr_n08tzinXa41qei2wfo1_500-6907

I also think that if you constantly put yourself in the position of knowing all the answers, you put so much pressure on yourself. Whereas if you take the time to teach and develop other people, not only will you have helped someone else out, you’ve also helped yourself because the next time there’s a problem, there’s someone else you can rely on.

Eat Well

I have to put this on the list simply because I know for a fact that I am not a nice person when I’m hungry, have skipped a meal or have not eaten way past 8pm for dinner. I know people in general tend to not be at their best when their blood sugar is running low, but man, I have had moments when I was really stressed and hungry that I am ashamed of. I have been known to bite my friends’ heads off; I become impatient and maybe just a little unreasonable. So this is really a priority for me.  Having said that, next on this list is…

Find a better way to relieve stress that has nothing to do with food

I am a stress-eater. I am not proud of it, but I am. When I’ve had a particularly stressful day, I order Chinese food and just binge-eat dumplings while watching Netflix. I wanted to cry when my workplace took out KitKat bars from our vending machines because they went on a health kick, because sometimes those KitKat bars are the only standing between me and the loony bin. Anyway, I need to rewire my brain and somehow not connect food with comfort. I am now on a mission to STOP turning to food when I’m stressed.

Music soothes the angry beast

There is no problem at work that can’t be made just a little bit more bearable by Taylor Swift. Or any music really. When I got home today, while waiting for my Japanese takeaway, I logged on to Netflix and watched Pitch Perfect 2 and just sang along to the songs. Go to Spotify and you’ll find plenty of playlist to boost your mood. I myself have a few guilty pleasures playlist that I listen to when I need a quick pick-me-up, it may or may not include MmmBop. :p

Find that work-life balance

This is probably the most important. I went through a phase where I was spending probably 50 hours a week at work and at the end of two such weeks, I felt like I barely knew myself. I had the sudden realisation last week that I’ve let a lot of my hobbies and passions go because I was too caught up with work; I’d stopped trying new things and pushing myself to do something I’ve always been afraid of because I was too busy training the next big thing in orthopaedics (insert eyeroll here). I made a promise to myself long ago to never become the kind of person who is defined only by her work. So that’s why I’ve decided to go back to blogging, to running, to working out and finding other things to be interested in. I am more than a nurse, more than an educator, I am a well-rounded (sometimes literally well-rounded) person with lots of other interests.

What are your suggestions for relieving stress? I’m sure there’s a lot of other ways out there that work for other people and I would love to hear your thoughts. Cheers, blabbaholics!