45 Minutes with Michael Duque, UK-based Pinoy Nurse Leader

The emergency department of every hospital is often considered as the most fast-paced, nerve-racking, and adrenaline-rushing arena for nurses and doctors alike. It is a place where thinking on the spot and mind-hand coordination is a nurse’s best friend. If you think about it, the ER is a place for nurses who are vibrant, youthful at heart, and energetic.

These same qualities are seen in one of our Filipino nurses who currently work in the United Kingdom.

Michael Duque earned his BS Nursing degree from Quezon City Medical Center which is now known as World Citi Colleges. His work experience includes being a nurse intern at Baguio General Hospital; a Trauma Medical Specialist with International SOS with additional training became a Flight Nurse Specialist, and a nurse-paramedic in the UAE. In the early part of 2000, he migrated to the United Kingdom where he gained further studies in Emergency Nursing (PgDip) from the University of Greenwich. Since then, he has further taken additional course modules working towards a master’s degree in Advance Practice Nursing. He is now currently working as an independent Emergency Nurse Practitioner.

Michael is an active Filipino community leader and wears other hats such as being an author, journalist, columnist, photographer and charity worker when he is not wearing his nursing cap. As an author, he has written two-books inTranspersonal Psychology (Quest Beyond Existence), a book on Photography (The Art of Posing in Photography) and has also been the editor for a private limited compilation of nursing reference, The Little Green Book. He formerly was a correspondent for Balitang Europe and still presently writes for various Filipino newspapers in the UK. As a photographer, he has also had his expressive photos exhibited in South-East London and at the Philippine Embassy. He is also an active member of various socio-civic organizations some of which he has co-founded and convened. His latest endeavor is the formation of a charitable non-government organization aimed at helping, training, and preparing Filipinos for disasters and emergencies called the Disaster Emergency Rescue and Relief Team (DERRT UK & International). DERRT currently has 5-international chapters and has regional chapters in the Philippines.  He was awarded a Leadership Travel Grant for Paraguay where he was awarded the Ambassador for Peace in 2008 and was likewise nominated for the Bagong Bayani Awards in 2007 for his professional success and untiring charitable and community works.

As a home to many Filipino nurses, let us discover Duque’s life in the UK and the current status of Filipino nurses through the PNA UK Chapter.

What is the thing that excites or inspires you the most in your ER nursing job?

While the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is bursting at its seams and every healthcare service nearly at the brink of imploding from the great demands placed on it by the service users, nurses working at the country’s busiest and top Accident & Emergency Departments have already felt the pressure and demands long before the rest of the hospital have.

Working in the frontline of a multi-cultural central London hospital is a daunting challenge which every ER nurse should be trained and be prepared for. As a senior nurse with limited resources available and the constantly changing departmental landscape from equipment problems, colleague clashes, demanding patients to target-oriented non-clinical managers, I find that no ER work-shift is ever the same. This variation impels me to look forward to every work-shift with interest and mixed feelings of pessimism and optimism.

 The “raw” presentation of every unique clinical case and the adrenaline-fuelled excitement of not knowing what major or minor case will walk through the ER doors or be brought in by the haunting red-phone when it rings, substantially keeps me interested and energized in my ER work. The 12-hour rush of hormone-stimulated atmosphere keeps me constantly challenged and up-to-date with current evidence-based clinical practices which are vital to enable me to perform my profession superbly alongside the various skills needed.

The diversity, challenges and the utterly unknown presentation of a mixture of various factors and elements in ER could possibly sum up the core of what drives a nurse to become specialize in ER. These are the reasons why I love being an A&E nurse.

What advice would you give new Filipino nurses planning to work in the UK?

Nursing in the United Kingdom is a step-side ward and up. While Filipino nursing education is modeled on our North American colleagues, nursing in the UK is still founded on the very same principles as that started by Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole.

The nursing foundation imbibed in every worthy Filipino Nurse is an excellent groundwork for anyone wishing to work in the UK as a nurse as it provides the nurse with a strong knowledge and skills foundation to be successful in the profession. The level of theory and clinical skills that Filipino Nurses have been trained with are very solid that new Filipino Nurses starting to work in the UK are taken aback by the level of UK nursing.

Nevertheless, having earned such an excellent background in nursing, a wise advice to new Filipino nurses planning to work in the UK is to not expect much from the beginning. As “newly qualified” nurses, you have to work hard to prove your worth while keeping your patient as the centre of your care. While enthusiasm and assertiveness is a great tool to boost your professional career, know the limits of such positive character before it works against your own interest.

Finally, there is no shortcut to being a nurse in the UK. Credentials and required documents are meticulously checked. Requirements are in place to guarantee that as an individual nurse, they will be a safe clinician. No amount of paper-pushing can and should exhaust an individual who clearly has the qualifications and experience for working in the UK.

As the current president if PNA UK, please give us a snapshot of Filipino nurses in UK.

The latest profile made by the Philippine Nurses Association of UK (PNA UK) over the last decade when Filipino Nurses started migrating to the Empire revealed that there is an estimated 30,000 Filipino Nurses in the UK. This figure does not include those that are Filipino nurses by qualification but not practicing the profession and the undocumented migrant nurses on various visas. However, if the number of Filipino nurses who were Philippine-born or nationals but have now acquired citizenship and therefore not classed as Filipino Nationals were included, the number of Filipino nurses in the UK would triple from the initial estimate.

In 2014, PNA UK profiled the Filipino Nurses according to their progress in the profession and the results showed that most of the Filipino Nurses (45%) are at Band 6 (charge nurse level); followed by Band 5 (staff nurse level) 35%; Band 7 (managerial and supervisory level) 15%; and Band 8 and above (specialist) at 8% of the general Filipino Nurses population.  This reflects the inherent nature of Filipino nurses to remain comfortable at mid-management level while being reserved on positions that require more responsibility, accountability and stress.

With the recent surge in recruitment of Filipino Nurses by the UK Healthcare Sector, it is anticipated that the number of rank & file Filipino nurses will increase dramatically and in the next 5-7 years, followed by the increase  in numbers in the Filipino Community in general.

While Filipino Nurses are generally acknowledged as hard-workers with excellent nursing knowledge, skills and social attitude, the most common remark made against any Filipino Nurses (of Filipinos in general) is the lack of positive assertiveness and expression.  Cultural diversity and educational upbringing is usually held responsible for this shortcoming. The labor-gap divide relationship that exist and its continued existence in our work ethics have contributed to the satisfaction of Filipino Nurses being satisfied at the mid-management level when they start working in the UK. However, with proper training, re-education and awareness, Filipino Nurses usually are successful in being true professionals.

Socially, Filipino Nurses are the most successful among the Filipino migrants. Most have been able to bring their families over either as visitors or as dependents. Filipino Nurses are able to equally mix their career, family and social responsibilities well with a little extra to spare