RJ from Cebu, is a very inspirational nurse in UK. Despite the challenges that hurdled before him, he managed to find the work-life balance he was looking for in UK. It just so happened that being an O.F.W. was a blessing in disguise.
I reached out to RJ on Instagram, asking him to collaborate. It was during the surge of Covid pandemic. Although he has a busy schedule, he made time to accommodate my questions.
In this interview, he detailed his journey to becoming an Overseas Filipino Worker, how much he spent to facilitate the process, his typical work scenario and how he managed to squeeze in his hobbies despite working for 12 hours.
Overseas workers are not lacking of low moments. RJ is no exception. He kind of felt the sense of hopelessness and regrets when he was not able to say good bye to his dad in person, since he was away.
Regardless, these challenges did not stop him from pushing himself to be the best person he can be. His hard work was recognized as he was awarded as one of London’s Rising Stars for the Royal College of Nursing last year.
Probably the things you should not miss in this Meet the OFWs episode is RJ’s way of dealing with stress and how applying the principles he learned from another industry became helpful in his current career.
Hope you’re hyped enough after this introduction. Without further ado, here’s my interview with RJ, a nurse in United Kingdom, pushing his way to be the best version of himself.
Kindly introduce yourself the way you’d like to be introduced
My name is Roberto Jose, but people call me RJ or Bob.
What do you abroad?
I’ve been working as a UK RN since 2016, but have been qualified as a nurse back in the Philippines last 2012.
How did you end up in United Kingdom? How is it like living in UK?
Well, working in the UK was something that never crossed my mind. I was ‘contented’ with the work I was doing back home, but like most people, I had to find a way to progress financially. My friends thought of applying through Omanfil, and luckily we passed the exams and here we are now.
Living in the UK gave me the work-life balance that most people are searching for. Though in the beginning, it was difficult trying to convert every single thing’s worth in pesos, but now I can say all is good. I live with my partner of 10 years and some filipino housemates, so home sickness is something we rarely feel.
I think it’s safe to say that I’ve adapted to the culture, seeing as I work with various people from different walks of life.
Have you ever faced any challenges living and working in a foreign land? How were you able to overcome them?
I don’t think I ever faced any major challenges, but I did however have a loved one pass away while I was here.
My dad passed away last 2019, and as an OFW, it’s difficult not being able to say good bye in person. You kinda feel that sense of hopelessness and regrets all at the same time, wishing you had been there and not working here.
I was able to attend the funeral and see my family, but I believe a situation like that is one of the worst things an OFW will ever experience.
Why did you decide to work abroad? Do you have plans in settling in UK?
It’s no surprise my answer to this question would be because of money. I grew up comfortably in Cebu with my family, however, we went through some tough time so I decided I needed to find a way to help my mom.
I also love to travel, so being able to work abroad was also a good excuse to travel and see the world.
Me and my partner are planning to buy a house soon and become UK citizens God-willing.
When did you decide to change course, from being a barista to becoming a nurse? Would mind sharing your journey?
So basically, after I took the board exam for nurses, I took on different jobs. I was at one point a Biology tutor to a French teenager. After that, I started working at a coffee shop as a barista.
That job helped me improve my social skills and customer service, that I was able to use them when I started working as a nurse in 2013. That is why I recommend to anyone who wants to become a nurse, try working part time or maybe even just working in customer service or hospitality.
Did you study nursing abroad or in the Philippines? Would you mind sharing the process of getting a nursing license in UK?
I graduated with a BSN in Nursing at Cebu Normal University in 2012. I then applied for UCLH through Omanfil in 2016.
That was the hard part. We had to go through IELTS, CBT, sending paperworks from the Philippines to the UK, and getting our visas and everything. It was a blur, and just like that, I was already in London.
Upon arrival, I was then assigned to the Hyper Acute Stroke Unit. We started working as Band 3s, or health care assistants whilst we study and prepare for our OSCE exams.
We underwent training and simulations. When we got our pins, we became Band 5’s, or registered nurses, went from green uniforms to blue.
Would you mind sharing how much you spent to go to UK?
Ohh, I don’t actually remember now, but I know all in all, we had to spend almost about Php 100,000.00.
What does your typical week looks like? How do you usually spend your off days?
Well pre-covid, days off looked like eating out with friends, or chilling in our flats. I’m a video game addict so there’s that. I worked 12 hour shifts, days and nights, so when I get a chance to unwind, I do.
And things have changed, with recent promotions, my week varies from time to time. I’ll have a meeting in the morning, work in the afternoon, and have another meeting.
But all is well and I can’t complain.
I understand that being a nurse is already challenging. How were you able to squeeze in some time for your hobbies (baking)?
Baking is not just a hobby for me. It’s like therapy. Have you ever listened to a song called “What Baking Can Do” from a musical called the Waitress? Basically trying to transform any stress or whatever I’m feeling into something that people can enjoy. So when I have the time, if I’m in the mood or if someone makes an order, I bake.
What’s your greatest achievement so far? Do you consider yourself successful?
My greatest achievement would have to be becoming the person I am now. I’ve been through so many challenges and obstacles, but I’m proud to say I’m still standing and still pushing myself to be a better version of myself.
I was recently awarded as one of London’s Rising Stars for the Royal College of Nursing last year. So maybe that?
As of 2019, there are over 12 million Filipinos overseas. Do you approve of Filipinos working and living abroad? Why or why not?
I think the answer is clear, seeing as I’m one of those that chose to work abroad. We were never meant to be bound to a single space of land. We were destined to broaden our horizons and see what life has to offer.
Whatever the reason, whether it’s to help your family, progress in your career, learn more, or travel, do what your heart dictates.
What can the Philippine government do for Overseas Filipino Workers, like you?
I don’t know if they can, but maybe just make sure the family’s that we’ve left behind and taken care of and kept safe.
And to my fellow nurses back home, I hope the government sees how much we are worth to the people, and start equating that to fair salary and wages.
What’s a piece of advise or something that was said to you by someone that will stick with you forever?
My grandmother’s last words to me before she passed away was “Love your work and your work will love you”.
Is there anything else you wish to share to our readers?
Never stop wanting to become a better version of yourselves. And as nurses of today, we have a responsibility to keep the flame and passion for our profession alive, by passing on the torch of knowledge to the future generations.
Pass on the blessings. Help each other out. Life isn’t meant to be experienced alone, so we all need to pitch in to make each other’s time the best.
So there you have it! Hope you’ve gain insights with this interview. Please show some support by liking and sharing this post.
Follow RJ on Instagram @rjavila0210.
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Thanks for reading!