Posted in bloggers, Careers, Medical, Nursing

Goodbye, Teacher

My whole life, I have always wanted to become a teacher.

When I was younger, I used to help my brother and sister with their schoolwork, in addition to doing my own. I was the go-to person at school for any classmate who would need extra support or tutoring on any subject.

In addition, just for kicks, my uncles would allot an hour each day for me to help my brother learn to read. For some reason we chose to pick up a hardbound edition of Disney’s Pocahontas, which, in hindsight, may not have been the most appropriate choice for encouraging an 8-year-old boy to read.

I went into Nursing because it was my best shot to get out of the country and try and make a better life for myself abroad. Had I been given a choice, and if the financial rewards were taken out of the equation, I probably would have become a History or English teacher or something.

Anyway, its true what they say that life always has a way of sorting itself out. And all you have to do is not get in the way of it while it does. I graduated Nursing and ended up becoming a Clinical Instructors in my alma mater for two years anyway.

I left that post after two years because I had an opportunity to work abroad as a theatre nurse. But after two years of doing that, I then applied for an education post in my trust and here I’ve been ever since.

This week, I lost a person who started out as a mentor and eventually became a colleague and friend. We both worked together as Clinical Instructors in Velez College, and her passing has made me reflect on what it means to be a good teacher, and what it means to be a good person.

I don’t think both are synonymous with each other, but I also think that they’re not mutually exclusive. Being a good person makes you a better teacher, and learning to be a good teacher will help you learn to become a better person.

There are so many qualities that you need to become a teacher that people don’t think about. There’s the easily definable and measurable qualities like time management and organisational skills, writing skills, the ability to speak eloquently and clearly. You also need a really good grasp of what it is you’re meant to be teaching, be subject matter experts so to speak.

But there are the qualities that are more difficult to quantify, the ones beneath the surface that people don’t always see.

Being a teacher takes a lot of patience. There are moments when I lose the will to live when I have to repeat something over and over again because someone just doesn’t get it. But when you manage to get through even one person who’s been struggling for so long, it feels like more of an achievement than when you teach a class of twenty intelligent people.

Being a teacher requires a lot of compassion. We all learn in different ways, some struggle more than others. I have always felt an affinity for those who need more support than the rest of their peers, for those who feel like they’ll always be a failure no matter what they do. As a teacher, I want them to believe in themselves because, even when I’ve hated my students, I’ve always believed in their potential.

Students and learners just need a little push, for someone to tell them to keep going no matter how many times they have to go to the dean’s office to submit a promissory letter because they’ve once again managed to acquire only the bare minimum grade required to pass a subject. It doesn’t matter. What matters is they did pass.

They need someone who won’t give up on them even when they’ve given up on themselves. I don’t know whether I’ve achieved this or not in the course of my career, but its something that I will continue to aim to do as an educator.

Being  teacher requires courage. I don’t know about my colleagues, but I always feel like I’m putting so much of myself on display whenever I have to get up in front of a class or group of people to present something. I feel intensely vulnerable, and I feel like everyone’s cataloguing all my faults and waiting for me to slip up so they can pounce and take advantage of my moment of weakness.

It takes strength and bravery to put yourself out there, and we do it each and every time because we believe in the payoff. We believe that its worth it. 

This week, our hospital is trying to introduce a new system of care planning as part of our new electronic health records system. The NANDA, or nursing diagnoses, is something that we’ve always taught and drilled into our Velez College students from the time they first step into the wards and care for patients. We have them do it every time they’re on shift; they do an extensive one at the beginning of the month as part of their OPTs and again at the end of the month when they have to do a case study.

I am incredibly pleased that the students we’ve taught as a faculty, who are now working in London, will finally be able to apply their training to the care of actual patients (I don’t know if THEY’RE pleased, because most of them hated the NANDA, but I am! lol).

Moreover, I feel so chuffed that something we implemented as part of their curriculum will now actually give them an advantage leading up to the planned change, and they will be able to support their colleagues who may not be as familiar with the system, in the same way that we supported them when they were students.

It is the best sort of validation for a teacher when she sees the actual fruit of her labours, to realise that she’s helped to equip her students with the tools they need to be globally competitive in the nursing field, and to see students that she’s personally taught become great and responsible nurses.

Ma’am Mira, you are everything that is good in a Velezian, and you exemplify some of the best values that the college has always taught us. I can only hope to be as brave and courageous as you have been when life has knocked you on your feet, and I can only pray to have your optimism and faith in difficult times, and even all the way through to the end.

Rest in peace, we will miss you very much, and this blog is for you. 

 

Posted in bloggers, Medical, Politics, Reviews

Book Review: This Is Going To Hurt – Adam Kay (and also, A Love Letter to the NHS)

As someone who will officially become British in the next 6 months (after dropping a whopping £5000 on residency and naturalisation fees of course), I now feel like I have the authority to list some of the things from my adopted country that I’m most proud of.

1. Harry Potter

2. The very commendable ability to insult someone while still managing to sound polite

3. Scones, clotted cream and jam (yum!)

4. Intermediate rent for key workers

5. The Tube (believe me, I’ve travelled a lot and I’ve yet to find a more extensive or well-run transportation service)

6. That damned accent that makes everything sound like a Shakespearean play, even when someone is telling you to sod off

7. The NHS

This post, and this book review, is really an ode to number 7. I freakin’ love the NHS. Call me naive, but I think its a modern miracle. And I say this both from the perspective of working in it, and from having been a patient needing its services.

I arrived in London seven years ago, and within the first four months I managed to get myself bitten by my landlady’s dog to such an extent that it necessitated actual surgery.

Up to this point I had never been admitted to a hospital, never had a cannula put in and have never had to take anything more serious than the occasional antibiotic. Unless you count the cholesterol-lowering medications but hey, I blame genetics for that.

ANYWAY. I was totally unfamiliar with the country’s health system. Heck, I didn’t even know where or what my nearest hospital was. I had to take a bus to a certain hospital in North London and hoped someone there would know what the hell needed to be done with me and my gaping leg wound.

I arrived at the A and E and was seen within the hour (I was later to learn that this was an exception rather than the rule). I had a line put in for the first time in my life, was given antibiotics and was asked, quite stupidly in my opinion, if I cared about the appearance of the leg.

Being somewhat vain about my legs, I said of course with an admirably controlled level of incredulity that such a thing needed to even be asked. I was then informed that in that case I would need to head to another hospital which specialised in plastics and that I would most likely need surgery.

Off I go, taking the Victoria Line and changing at Green Park to take the Jubilee line, stopping somewhere in the general vicinity of Hampstead before taking the bus to get to where I needed to go. I got to the hospital and was scheduled for a day surgery procedure the next day.

On the day of the surgery I was seen by a very lovely and good-looking plastic registrar. I would have given him consent to do anything and everything but all he wanted was my ok to do a washout +/- skin graft procedure. I was wheeled into the anaesthetic room and asked to count backwards from 10. And that was the last thing I remembered before waking up in the recovery room an hour later.

After a couple of hours, I was discharged with take-home meds, dressing instructions and a smile. I then took my very stressed mother and aunt (who were supposed to be on holiday to visit me in London) to eat some peri-peri chicken at Nando’s.

I did all these without having to pay a single penny, and without having to worry about insurance, or my lack thereof.

I don’t know any other country where anxious patients, especially those new to the country like myself, would be able to expect this kind of service. Its a privilege that we take for granted everyday because we are so immersed in it, but that’s exactly what it is: a privilege.

Its a privilege to have the services that the NHS provides, and its a privilege to be a part of those services.

I haven’t read other reviews of Adam Kay’s book and I don’t give a fig what other people say. To me, what I got from it was a love for the NHS, despite the stress, the understaffing, the unbelievable pressure to meet somewhat unrealistic targets and the perpetual financial crises that meant you rely on the goodwill of the staff most of the time.

This Is Going to Hurt is in turns funny, poignant, frustrating, touching, and above all things, wonderfully and painfully accurate. I laughed at the bits I recognised (because I experience it day in and day out) and teared up over the things that, despite our best efforts, we health professionals can’t do anything about.

There were moments that seemed so absurd that non-medics would think its fiction. But believe me, the number of times I’ve gone to work and been in a situation where I’ve said after “You cannot make this shit up” cannot be counted on both hands.

I bitch and moan about work as much as the next person, but it only takes me 5 minutes to remember that without the NHS I will not have a career, nor would I have had the experiences, opportunities and relationships that I’m blessed with today.

The NHS is neither good or bad. It simply IS. At the end of the day, one learns to suck it up during the bad days because inevitably, there will be good days that make all the effort worth it.

Like when someone is walking pain free for the first time in their life because of a well-done knee replacement. Or when you help deliver a couple’s firstborn after they’ve experienced more than one miscarriage.

These moments are everything. And for the cynics who say that the NHS provides sub-par services and that I’m idealising the whole situation, believe me, I’M NOT.

I’ve had days where, just like Adam, I felt like throwing in the towel and maybe moving to the private sector where I will at least be paid more. But something keeps me staying and sticking with the NHS. I really truly believe we get it right more times than we get it wrong.

I, for one, am glad that someone finally made the effort to make the general public more aware of what really goes on within the four walls of the hospital.

Once, someone I knew who worked in a different country shared an article written by a nurse who used to work for the NHS, and who had quit because she had gotten traumatised over the deteriorating quality of services in her hospital.

This nurse highlighted a lot of things that are true in most hospitals in the country. Its a tale of a health system that’s on its knees and a government that continues to be ignorant about its plight.

We get daily updates about Brexit negotiations but no one thinks it important to point out that patients with serious health conditions are delayed in seeing a doctor because of an A and E that’s full to bursting? Ridiculous.

Anyway, this person sharing the article erroneously thought that the nurse didn’t have the right to complain because third-world countries have the same problems and the nurses get paid even less, the message being that NHS nurses should just suck it up and get on with it like the rest of the world do.

While I acknowledge that the UK still have it better than, say, the Philippines, the fact is that the point of the article was not about salary or any kind of compensation. The article made an effort to bring to light some of the very real issues the NHS faces, and to bring it the level of something as crude as money is to take away the power of the message it was trying to get across.

What can we do to help?

That’s a question Adam Kay got asked a lot during his book tour apparently. The answer is as varied as the medical field itself.

Maybe next time you see a junior doctor who’s spent more than 24 hours on shift answering bleep after bleep after bleep, or a nurse at the end of the operating list who cannot decide whether she’s more tired or hungry, you’ll find it in your heart to offer them a KitKat.

Maybe during the next election think long and hard about who you’re voting for and ask yourself whether they are the once in a lifetime politicians that will actually care about our health services. (Something to keep in mind now that I can actually vote).

Or if you are part of the noble majority of the population that work for the NHS, maybe be a bit kinder to your colleagues. We are all on this (sinking) boat together, and we’ll hold on to it until they tell us we need to jump ship and swim.

I am extremely proud to work for the NHS, and I am extremely overjoyed that books like these exist.

5 stars.

Posted in Careers, friendship, Moving to London, Travel, United Kingdom

The Payoff: Why I’m Proud to be a One-Time Clinical Instructor

Teaching is in my blood.

I come from a whole family of teachers, spanning maybe two generations. As a kid, I used to earn my allowance by tutoring my younger brother and sister. I very nearly went insane in the process but it has prepared me for my future as an educator. Believe me, teaching your own sibling is an experience you don’t want to have in perpetuity (haha, Game of Thrones reference).

My father didn’t want me to be a teacher because he thought I would have more of a future as a nurse. At the time, there were not a lot of job opportunities in the Philippines and everyone was desperate to get out of the country. Nursing was a one-way ticket to a better life. Ironically, when I started studying nursing the demand for nurses internationally started to decline; there was a recession in the US and the UK and not a lot of countries were hiring out. But that was okay, because I knew as soon as I graduated that I wanted to be a clinical instructor in my alma mater and train future nurses.

My two years as a clinical instructor were some of the best and worst years of my life. I started out as this wide-eyed, dreamy and idealistic teacher fresh from uni and with all cylinders firing. I wanted to not just teach students, but to inspire them as well. I wanted to make an impact. I wanted to be that one teacher they’ll remember for the rest of their life. 

You know what they say about good intentions and the roads they pave.

Not that being a clinical instructor was hell. But. Reality sort of got through after a while and I realised that the job was way more difficult than I thought it would be. I especially had a hard time balancing between going the extra mile and getting too close to the students. I may also have disagreed with some of my more senior colleagues about our role in our students’ lives. I believed (and still believe) that it was possible to stay impartial and objective without being detached. I think that extra touch of the personal is what makes a student-teacher relationship special. I have gotten into a lot of trouble for clinging to that belief. But I had hell of a good time because of it.

In my first year as a clinical instructor, I threw everything I had into teaching. I was organised, I gave every student individual feedback, I listened to their problems, both academic and when they wanted support about the more personal aspects. I got creative and looked for ways to make learning fun. I still remember organising an Amazing Race-like activity around the campus at the end of every rotation. I think I may have also built a reputation for being really strict, which I never intended but turned out to work really well for me. I think a little dose of fear is healthy. But I didn’t want the students to do the work because they feared me, I wanted them to do it because they see value in doing it.

I supported extra-curricular activities with gusto. I may not know much about playing basketball, but I love the sport and I was there for every game. I cheered every win and commiserated with the team for each loss. I also knew that the best way to get over a loss was to eat and drink so I used to buy food for the team, so much that some of the boys still message me to this day to ask for pochero because that’s what we used to have when we ate out. 

I think that first year was awesome. I look back on it now and I’m grateful. I wouldn’t do anything differently even though some people are of the opinion that I got too close. Maybe I did. Maybe I was too young to be a clinical instructor. I was mentoring students who were only 2 or 3 years younger than me, its kinda hard to be an authority figure with that narrow an age gap. I think the lines were a bit blurred because of that, and with others the lines were more blurred because of natural chemistry. I think that there are people in your life that you will just naturally get along with and gravitate more towards. Some of the students were my friends. However, because they were my friends, I worked even harder to stay impartial within the context of our professional relationship. 

I think its a huge leap from being friendly with students to assuming that I would compromise my integrity for them. 

In my last year as a clinical instructor, I was unfairly accused of leaking exam questions to a group of students. I have never spoken openly about how upset I was about this but I do so now just to get it off my chest completely. I WOULD NEVER DO SUCH A THING. It goes against every principle I have in life. Teaching is my passion, and I cannot teach without integrity. Why should I work so hard to teach students if I’m going to give them the easy way out anyway? If I did that, I would be cheating them and selling them short because it means I have no faith in their ability to pass an exam. I don’t think those who used my name so carelessly to cover their mistake or those who were so quick to judge me ever realised how close they came to snuffing out that spark, that love I had for teaching.

But I refused to let them defeat me. 

I still don’t know who leaked the exam. There were other clinical instructors accused with me but I got the full force because of the kind of relationship I had with the students. In hindsight, maybe I was guilty. Guilty of not setting more boundaries and protecting myself from accusations like that. I learned that lesson the hard way. 

Still its hard to regret the choices I made when I have so many students who tell me how much of an impact I’ve made in their lives. I can’t bring myself to be overly bitter about that experience because its made me stronger; and it was ultimately the catalyst that led me to London. 

And I’m happy that I never gave up. Because I would have missed out on the payoff. The payoff is seeing your babies graduate; the payoff is seeing them all become nurses in their own right. The payoff is seeing how successful they’ve become and reuniting with them halfway round the world from where we came from and having drinks by the river Thames. 

Batch 2011. My first students and first babies. You’re not supposed to have favourites, but what the hell. This batch is definitely mine. 🙂

Batch 2013. My other favourite and the ones that supported me the most when shit hit the fan because they were loyal to me and to my sister. 😘
Well done to us, Sir Jo! Hahahah

With Marj the New Yorker on her first visit to London. First of many! Haha
With Rayann, New Yorker number two! 😘

I am so incredibly proud of the work we’ve done with these students. They’ve turned out better than we could have expected and Joseph, I think we should give ourselves a pat in the back, partner. Job well done.

Kudos, Velez College – College of Nursing UK Chapter. 😘