Episode 17 of Our Voices introduces us to Tella, a nurse from the Philippines who has worked in the NHS since 2019. Her story reveals a surprising change in career-path which has taken her to this point.
On the surface, everything was looking bright for Tella: she was in her mid-20s and was about to complete her law degree, she had also just been accepted on one of the most competitive law internships in the country. She should’ve been happy; however, something did not feel right. Describing her feelings at the time, Tella says “If you’d looked up a quarter-life crisis in the dictionary, you’d have seen a picture of my face.” The truth was that law was not her passion; only her fear of failure and letting other people down had pushed her to this point. She knew that she could not accept the internship; thus, she wrote a long letter turning it down and says that, since that day, she has “never been happier”.
This is because in closing one door, she was able to open another and this time she would be pursuing her passion: nursing. This was something Tella had wanted to do since she was 11 years old when family was shaken after her father had a heart attack. While he was in hospital, she describes seeing the nurses running around and realising that they were saving his life: “he wouldn’t have survived had it not been for them”. From that moment, she wanted to be a part of that world: “I wanted to bring hope to families… I wanted to be in the medical profession.”
As if by fate, Tella ended up working in the same hospital where her dad was looked after. But making such a drastic career change was not easy. Tella reveals that she felt overwhelmed with the amount of new information she had to learn. When she decided to accept a job in the UK, she was also faced with the challenge of adapting to a new country away from her family and friends “it was all getting to me at that point”.
One of the fundamental challenges of making her career-change into nursing was that Tella lacked confidence in her suitability for her new role. Ironically it was dealing with a particularly difficult patient which began to reassure Tella that she had made the right decision. She describes caring for an older patient who had been amputated and needed to undergo risky surgery. He was “very rude and very short with everybody…but no matter how rude he was, I was always trying to be very patient and kind”.
Eventually Tella’s kindness and patience were rewarded when the man revealed why he had been so hostile. He told Tella that he had recently lost his wife at hospital and that he associated being there with death. In tears, he told Tella that he was scared that he would not survive his operation but he apologised for his behaviour and told Tella these all important words: “You’re doing well Tella, you’re a star.” Tella describes hearing those words as being “all the reassurance she needed”.
The man recovered from his surgery and thanked Tella and all the nursing staff when he was discharged from hospital. Tella describes also being thankful for the positive impact he has made on her and she hopes that she has made and will continue to make a similar impact on the patients she cares for.
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