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'It takes a lot of work to unlearn our own biases'

Kathrina Coronel 17 Nov 2023

Kathrina Coronel, an internationally educated nurse from the Philippines who is working in Scotland, reflects on her journey to and experience of living in the UK.

Video title slide
I am proud to work for the NHS and help uphold its overarching mission to be for everyone, but my dream of becoming a nurse began in my home country of the Philippines.

Life was not easy growing up. My academic scholarship got me through those hard days finishing my nursing degree. I used to hang out at the nursing school library to make sure I could borrow the latest textbooks because I didn’t have the money to buy them. That education saved me from poverty and was the driving force for a better future.  

The wide world was calling and, fuelled by my desire to help my family and have a better life for myself, I screwed up my courage to leave the Philippines. I went to Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Afghanistan, England and now live in Scotland. 

When I was invited by the RCN to share my experience as an internationally educated nurse, I felt privileged. Learning how to look after people with different needs and from different backgrounds is challenging. Humility and adaptability have helped me a lot, as has my love of learning, and I want to share my experience with others who may be thinking about treading a similar path. 

I was fortunate to have a lot of support when I moved to the UK. The major challenge was understanding the healthcare system. How could I fulfil my role as a nurse effectively? I needed to make sure that I knew who to ask for help or escalate any issues that I faced. 

Local accents and colloquialisms and the terminologies used in different places were a struggle. I was surprised at how accepting and helpful the patients were when I asked them exactly what they meant. Truth be told, they were my best teachers, apart from the TV comedy shows I have watched - like Still Game, a ‘must watch’ for anyone thinking of moving to Scotland! It is about speaking up and by doing that, I took all the embarrassment away and spoke with confidence. 

In the beginning, there was an element of fear. I knew that I might touch on issues of diversity and racism so I wanted to be careful with what I said. But I have slowly learned to view this differently. 

No matter where we go, it always seems that there is something that separates us. It takes a lot of work to unlearn our own biases. We should always try to see ourselves in others. More than skin colour, nationality or accent, all I see now are my colleagues and my team. All I see now are nurses who know how to look after people, just like me. I now see what we all have in common rather than what sets us apart.

My advice for anyone dreaming big - go forth and go far! There are resources available to support us as internationally educated nurses. We are slowly being given the opportunity to share what we can do and how our different cultures, nursing background or personality can all work together to create a better environment to nurse and care for our patients.

Watch Katherina's short film highlighting her unique nursing journey. Her film was one in a series from internationally educated nurse members working in the UK. Watch now.

Kathrina Coronel

Kathrina Coronel

RCN Lothian and Borders member

Staff Nurse, Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh

Page last updated - 17/11/2023