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How I became a…Nurse in the UK

Mariana Muňoz Carrera, a nurse with Cambridge University Hospital, shares her story of relocating from Spain to the UK to pursue her Nursing career and advice on how to settle into a new country.

Can you tell us about your background? When did you first realise you wanted to become a nurse.

I have been working as a nurse for 15 years. Since I was a child, I knew I wanted to look after people. Instead of dressing my dolls, I used to put bandages on them and pretend that they were in a hospital. I have been working in several departments since I graduated in 2003, such as Emergency, Theatre, Oncology, General Medicine, Surgical, Nursing Home, Maternity, Community and Respiratory.

Where did you study? Tell me about some of your placements during college.

I studied in the Red Cross School of Nursing in Seville (Spain). During my placements, I was able to work in different departments and my mentors showed me how to work independently and also as part of a team. I was able to learn how to perform several techniques such as venepuncture, catheter insertion, blood tests, nasogastric tube insertion, wound management, vital signs monitoring, medication administration etc. This gave me varied experience both theoretical and practical.

How did you get your current job?

A friend of mine was preparing her paperwork for working in the UK and I started to become interested in the prospect. She came to the UK with the help of Cpl Healthcare so I decided to apply for one of their job offers also. They got in touch and helped me with the NMC registration and interview preparation. I went to Madrid for the interview and Cambridge University Hospital offered me the job.

What nursing specialty do you work in?

I have been working in the Respiratory Ward since October 2014. I am very happy there. I have the opportunity to specialise in a particular area which I couldn’t do in Spain as I only had temporary jobs. I enjoy working as part of a team where we can all come together and deliver excellence in care. I also have the opportunity to grow and develop in my career and I enjoy a lot teaching and mentoring junior staff and students.

Why did you want to work as a nurse in the UK?

I wanted to gain more experience as a nurse in a different environment. I think working in a different country can give you fresh perspective and new career opportunities. It is a big challenge but I am delighted to meet different people and to learn from other professionals. Each hospital is different so a hospital in a different country is even more eye opening. I’ve enriched my knowledge about policies and procedures in nursing and medicine and have widened my vision of the field.

What are the differences between working as a nurse in the UK compared to Spain?

In Spain we don’t have trainings, when we study Nursing, we learn the skills so when we are qualified our competencies include venepuncture and all the procedures that, for example, in the UK, the physician assistants do. We don’t have specialist nurses in Spain either. We work as a team with doctors and healthcare assistants but we don’t have the same support from a big team.

Did you find it hard to get settled in the UK?

At first, it was hard to feel settled. I had a one way ticket to the UK so it was difficult to accept that Cambridge was my new home. It took me a few months to come around but then I decided to make the most of the experience and focus on the positives such as learning from my colleagues and embracing the fact that I was living and working abroad.

What skills do you think are most important to have in your role?

The basic nursing skills such as venepuncture, taking bloods, wound dressing and tube insertion are essential from a nursing point of view. As an independent professional, a nurse should be able to perform these procedures so we can provide the best care to our patients. For example, if a patient needs an IV medication and I am able to get IV access, the patient would benefit from me being able to treat them as soon as possible. 

What advice would you give to nurses like you, looking to get started in the UK?

I would encourage nurses to come to work in the UK as it gives you the opportunity to become more independent both personally and professionally. Working in a different country gives you a brand new environment to learn from and enriches the knowledge that you already have from your previous experiences. You can keep learning and improving your nursing care. You can also specialise and even try different aspects of nursing such as mentoring, teaching, research, etc.

You’ve written a book about your experience, what made you decide to do this?

When I started working as a nurse in the UK, I found the system very different from the Spanish system. This is why I decided to write about the things that I would have liked to know about before coming to the UK, so I could give others a picture of how things work here. I think that if you have some basic knowledge beforehand,  you won’t feel as anxious or stressed about starting a new job in a different country.

Interested in pursuing a nursing career in the UK like Mariana?

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