OVER the past few years, members of the NHS has worked tirelessly through the Covid-19 pandemic saving lives and giving hope.

Nurses, doctors, and all other NHS staff have had moments when they felt exhuasted, overwhelmed... but knew they had to carry on.

As a nation, we rallied round, as we clapped and supported the workers throughout the incredibly tough time for the NHS.

This week was International Nurses’ Day, which celebrates contributions nurses make and it is safe to say they deserve our respect more than ever.

The key part of that is the word international, and we spoke to two Filipino nurses, who shared their stories of how they came to work for the NHS, working through the pandemic and their joy of being a part of the healthcare team.

Stephanie Magbanua, 31, is a nurse in the education team at Colchester Hospital, having previously worked as a part of the A&E team.

Moving to Colchester from the Philippines, Stephanie joined the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) in 2018 after qualifying as a nurse in her home country in 2011.

Stephanie said: “I always wanted to do healthcare.

“Over the years I have been a real science fan and followed it through university studying health sciences.

“I came to ESNEFT as an international recruit and this role has given me the chance to offer other overseas nurses the same support which I received when I started.

“It’s really nice as it feels like you’re giving something back.

“For me I always say work doing what you love and for me it is healthcare, so it doesn’t feel like you are working.


“It is the amazing sense of fulfilment I get at the end of a work day that just tops it off.”

Stephanie was greeted by typical British weather, arriving in the UK during a heavy snowstorm, but said the reception she received couldn’t have been warmer.

She spoke of the support she has had from her colleagues being one of the best parts of the job, especially during the pandemic, which she described as “one of the greatest achievements”.

She said: “The pandemic was one of the great achievements for me, working through it, surviving it, helping all the people we did.

“We are in such a technological age, that we almost never expected a pandemic to hit, and whilst it was hard work, with the help of my team, we made it through.

“I usually worked nights, and sometimes did shifts from 7pm to 7.30am, but my colleagues were always so supportive, you were never on your own.

“But it has been like that since the beginning, the family feel.

“I am an international recruit, and I was recruited internationally and trained overseas, but when I arrived I don’t feel like I was left out.

“People were so warm, and always helped me out, it was wonderful.

“I am proud to work for the NHS and would definitely recommend a career in nursing as you get the chance to make a difference.

“It is like a big family and there are always people there who are happy to help, which is part of what makes the NHS so special.”

Another nurse in the Colchester hospital from the Philippines is Paolo Zabat.

The 32-year-old said: “I think when I finished my secondary school abroad, I wanted to go into healthcare.


“By that time in 2007, when I started uni, nursing was a very in demand course in the Philippines, and it is one of the countries that produces the most nurses.

“This was just one of the many factors I considered and that drew me into this area of work.”

After relocating to Essex in 2017, Paolo now works in the urology department, also at the Colchester Hospital.

He described working through the pandemic as a challenge but owed getting through it to his NHS colleagues.

Paolo said: “The whole thing was a challenging situation, mentally exhausting and physically too, doing eight to eight or 11 to 11 shifts.

“But my colleagues, from consultants up to mangers, we all supported and looked each other.

“We were checking on each other constantly and were looking after each other as well as the patients.”

Paolo was redeployed to the role of Urology advanced nurse practitioner during Covid-19 before earning a permanent promotion last year.

He added: “Due to the surge of Covid we needed to prioritise that, the services for cancer shut down and we were redeployed to do different roles, with myself being sent to help the urology wards.

“I then applied for a job in that ward as I had already learned the job and it is much more practical and I get to use my skills more, which I love, so ironically it was thanks to the pandemic that has sort of helped me to be where I am now.”

Paolo said that being a part of the NHs is an honour and he hopes to inspire the next generation of international nurses.

He said: “Nursing is rewarding and I would recommend it to anyone who is passionate about a career helping others.

“Every day is a learning experience and I’m so grateful to have been given the opportunity to acquire knowledge and develop new skills.

“I still have lots to learn but am really well supported by my colleagues and appreciate all of the help I have been given since arriving in the UK.

“I think it is a real honour to be given the opportunity to touch people’s lives on this side of the world but it is even a greater privilege when patients express their gratitude for being with them on their journey.”