Filipino Nurses Celebrate 20 years in the NHS

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Twenty years ago, thirteen nurses from the Philippines arrived at Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals as part of an international nurse recruitment drive. The Recruitment Team had travelled to the Philippines to recruit nurses to support a shortage of qualified nurses at the time.

They had never met each other until their orientation day at the agency supporting the Trust to recruit. Fast forward twenty years and five of them remain at the Trust, one has moved to the Renal Unit on the Warrington Hospital site, six have moved to different areas in the UK; of which three have retired and one has ventured further afield to a hospital in New York. They are all still in touch and describe themselves as “family” and godparents/ “second mum’s” to each other’s children.

Richelle Lauder, Razil Villareno, Anna Botin, Minerva Irorita, and Loida Vergara all remain at the Trust and May Velasco-Cuento, has moved to the renal unit on the Warrington site managed by Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust all celebrating 20 years in the NHS.

On the 20th June 2002, they arrived at the airport to be met by a coach provided by the hospitals to bring them to Warrington and their first stop was The Village Hotel for a welcome lunch. The Trust initially provided them with accommodation close to the hospitals on Lovely Lane or Halton Brook, for those working at Halton Hospital. Today, they all live in the vicinity of Lovely Lane, except for Minerva, who lives in Sandymoor.

Richelle recalls “We feel so welcome and have enjoyed our experiences at the hospitals over the last twenty years. We are all remarkably close to each other and over the last 20 years become like family and we are always at each other’s houses having a BBQ and eating. British food plays a huge part in our love of the UK. With our first pay we celebrated by having fish and chips!

“The one question we got asked then and still do is “Why Warrington?” and the united response from us all is ‘the hospitals wanted us and have looked after us.’”

Each of the nurses has their own story of why they came to Warrington to work:

Anna Botin, a staff nurse, currently on B3 in the Nightingale Building B3 (normally A5 - Gastro)

“I came across from the Philippines because everyone was leaving my hospital to come to the UK and telling me how good it was, so I applied and came across; it was my first time abroad as well. I wanted to further my experience in nursing. My first ward was B18, and they made me feel so welcome and supported. Even though 20 years have passed I still see and communicate with many of them, even though a lot have retired.

“I met my husband in the Philippines and he came over with me, he’s a carer and works on my ward A5 Gastro – we work opposite shifts for childcare.”

Razil Villareno, staff nurse on the specialised Dementia Unit – Forget Me Not Ward:

“I was in the Philippines, and it was my first experience of coming abroad as well. I worked in a government hospital and a lot of staff had come to the UK and worked for two years and returned to the hospital and talked about their experiences here and kept telling me to come and try it and the salary was much better than what I was on. I wanted to experience it for myself. I stayed and cannot believe that it has been 20 years now.”

Minerva Irorita, Sister on B3 in the Nightingale Building at Halton Hospital:

“I came from Saudi Arabia, I had been there for six years working in a hospital, but like others I had heard how good it was in the UK, and of course the salary was better. I feel so welcome and have enjoyed my time and experience here.”

Richelle Lauder who works as an Advanced Critical Care Practitioner in ICU:

“I was young at the time, 22 years old when I arrived. I came to be able to travel more in Europe and the job was exciting. The opportunity presented at the time was great as Warrington provided everything for us to come across, it was all sorted and we did not have to worry about travel or accommodation. I have been fully supported on my career pathway, given plenty of support for professional development and it has been great, I started as a band 5 nurse, and I am now an Advanced Critical Care Practitioner. I also met my husband here and I am happy here.”

Loida Vergara, Sister on Acute Cardiac Coronary Unit:

“I was working in a private hospital in the Philippines then most of my friends and colleagues were leaving for the UK, therefore I said to myself "Why should I not try as well". Luckily, here I am now, happily working here in Warrington Hospital. I initially worked in Halton Hospital and then transferred to Warrington Hospital to the Acute Coronary Care Unit. The staff here are amazing, supportive, and friendly. They are not just my colleagues, but friends.”

May Velasco-Cuento (deputy manager, Warrington Renal Unit)

“I was working in Saudi Arabia and everyone more senior to me was coming to the UK and I was like “What is in the UK?” so when Warrington came out to the Philippines, I went along to find out more and decided to give it a try. My first ward was the old B16 and before going to the Planned Investigations Unit during my first two-year contract. I then saw a job at the dialysis unit, which at the time was upstairs in Appleton Wing and that is what my experience was originally, so I applied and got the job. I moved to the new unit, and I am now the Deputy Manager. I love the patients and staff on the unit.”

Another question they are asked by their colleagues and patients “Why have you stayed so long?” and their response is simple “Because we have found our family!”

Richelle explains; “It does not feel like we have been here 20 years, it has gone that fast and we have loved every bit of it. We love our jobs in the NHS and the friends we have made; we just want to say thank you on our 20th year anniversary to the hospitals for giving us this opportunity. We are so grateful to you all.”

Pictured: Minerva Irorita, Razil Villareno, Richelle Lauder, Anna Botin, Minerva Irorita, and May Velasco-Cuento

Pictured: Group picture from 2002 of the original 13 nurses and the staff who supported them on their arrival at Warrington and Halton Hospitals.