From the Philippines to The Royal Free

Sunday 12th May was International Nurses Day. Middlesex University student and Finchley resident Manolo Bilog is an international nurse himself, bringing his skills from the Philippines to the Royal Free

A nurse in scrubs
Manolo Bilog

People who qualified overseas have always been part of the the National Health Service in England. Manolo Bilog works at the Royal Free Hospital and studied on MDX’s transition programme for nurses who qualified overseas seeking to join the profession in the UK. He graduated in 2019.

Alongside his work as an education nurse assisting and supporting learners, currently at the pre-registration level, Manolo is enrolled again at MDX on a Post Graduate Certificate in Higher Education to deepen his knowledge and skills. Manolo already had extensive experience as a nurse and educator in his native Philippines, with a background in acute/emergency care and community health, and teaching roles as a clinical instructor and associate professor.

Passionate to learn, he climbed the academic ladder in the Filipino system, achieving a Masters and a doctorate in education. In the UK, he has additionally earned a Post Graduate Diploma in Professional Practice from the University of South Wales, and a Healthcare Research MSc from Queen Mary, University of London.

“Since I was young, I wanted to be a nurse,” Manolo said. He chose nursing over being a doctor because he was drawn to the “essence of patient care,” and inspired by the compassion and dedication of the nurse who looked after his grandmother and sister when they were hospitalised. “I believe that helping others is the most noble thing to do with one’s life. As a nurse, you can be an advocate for patients and make a difference in their care, especially when they are in their vulnerable state”. 

The long journey from mature student with a record of achievement in a different health system, to newly-qualified UK nurse was a difficult one, Manolo said, but added that he was “forever grateful” to MDX and the Royal Free for supporting him through the transition and the trust and respect he was accorded.

Manolo, who lives in Finchley, found the style and environment for learning in the UK very different from the Philippines, with simulation and clinical facilities far above what had been on offer when he had originally qualified. The simulation suites at StoneX were not yet built when he was doing his degree, but Manolo had the opportunity to visit last year and said he was “awed and overwhelmed – it’s so lifelike”. 

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He appreciated the warmth and helpfulness of MDX academic staff and nursing faculty, “listening to queries and guiding us. They have a structure of support so that you can get whatever you need while studying”. He especially mentioned assistance from the learning enhancement team and library staff. 

He remembered the patience with which lecturer and critical care specialist Cariona Flaherty, now Deputy Head of Nursing and Midwifery at MDX, helped his class with an essay they were all worried about, on caring for patients with complex care needs. “She spent so much time to explain what we needed to do,” Manolo said. “I was impressed by her passion for teaching. Her unwavering support was so reassuring and encouraged us to pass this subject”. He is in good contact with course mates, most of whom are now colleagues at the Royal Free.

Manolo described the nursing programme as an “exceptional preparation”, teaching critical-thinking skills and an agile approach to healthcare challenges. He also noted MDX’s reputation and delivery in upholding equal opportunities and supporting diverse learners as something to be proud of.

Prior to his current role, Manolo has worked in the NHS as a healthcare assistant (2017-2019), a staff nurse in the medical short stay unit at Barnet Hospital (2019-2021) and an education nurse in post-registration nurse education (2021-2022). His career in the Philippines and the UK exemplifies life-long learning, and he hopes to carry on contributing to the education and development of his fellow nurses for years to come. “I find it enriching – the constant studying and learning makes you adapt to all sorts of situations,” he said.

“When you’re happy to learn, you learn more”. In positions where he has been a nurse advocate to practice assessors and practice supervisors in the Trust, he has also looked at students who have concerns, and mitigated these so they do not become a problem. “I give that extra leg of support. That moves me and gives me a lot of motivation”. He has also found much opportunity for reflective learning: “because I’ve gone through it, I’ve got experience to give back to the students”.

Manolo’s advice to current nursing students? “Don’t stop learning! Grab all the opportunities in life”.

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