Overseas nurse to matron

Jean Paul
From an overseas nurse to matron, we sat down with Jean-Paul (also known as JP) to find out how he has carved out a successful nursing career here at UHS.

So JP let’s start from the beginning, how did your nursing career begin at UHS?

Before I came to the UK I had previously trained as a nurse in the Philippines, and by the time I joined University Hospital Southampton (UHS) I had already been working as a qualified cardiac nurse for five years. I then applied to join UHS as part of an overseas recruitment drive in 2003 and I am delighted to still be working here today!

What would you say are the main differences between the UK and the Philippines in terms of nursing and the training?

Historically, I felt that nurses from the Philippines were more academically prepared as we all had a degree and some had a master’s qualification, nowadays all nurses in the UK qualify with a degree, which is good. The healthcare system back home is primarily driven by consumerism and each hospital needs to show who is providing the best care to all paying patients. I was very fortunate to be able to work in a government hospital, The Philippine Heart Centre, which provided excellent care to both paying and non-paying patients.

When I joined UHS, I immediately fell more in love with my profession, especially as the driver for this organisation is to provide world class quality patient care to all. We’re providing health care to everyone regardless of their gender, ethnic background, disability and religion. 

Tell us about your nursing career before coming to the UK?

Unfortunately my parents died when I was really young and my siblings and I went to live on our own with supervision from our aunt who became our legal guardian. We were asked early on ‘What would you like to do as a career?’ I knew that the training for nurses in the Philippines had an excellent reputation and I decided that nursing was what I wanted do.

When I joined UHS I was immensely proud to be able to demonstrate the skills and level of care that I had learnt. I stood out from the crowd, probably because everyone else in the group was called Maria – seven Marias and one JP!

So how did you become a matron for the cardiovascular and thoracic team?

I have always worked in cardiovascular and thoracic (CVT) since joining UHS. Like all overseas nurses then, I joined and started as a C grade on ward E4 and then progressed to staff nurse after we had registered to the NMC.

I then worked as a research nurse for a year before returning to the ward as senior staff nurse. Not long after returning I applied for a more senior role and was appointed the first Filipino charge nurse for the same ward. This was momentous occasion for our care group as it helped to set a precedent for more nurses from different ethnic backgrounds to start applying and being appointed to more senior roles.

A few years later I then took on an education role whilst continuing to work as a charge nurse where I progressed to take the education lead role for over 7 years. The secondment for the matron role then came up and I applied and was delighted to be offered the job.

You were the first overseas charge nurse in CVT, what a great achievement! What do you put your success down to?

I have always had support from the organisation and my line managers. At every step I have been given the encouragement to develop and improve with the same opportunity amongst various colleagues. I am also a big advocate for work life balance and looking after your health, wellbeing and mindfulness as I believe this will mean you are in the best possible position to be the best version for yourself for your patients and your colleagues.

Now you are in your matron role what would you say to someone who is looking to develop a career in nursing?

Anyone looking to develop a career in nursing is joining at the perfect time as we’re moving towards the development of the digital nurse. You must also be patient focused, as soon as you step onto your ward nothing else should matter. I also believe that there is always room to improve, so never stop trying to develop yourself.