LONDON - Barely a year after its formation, the Filipino Nurses Association United Kingdom (FNA UK) is awarded the National BAME Health Care Awards, under the “Community Initiative of the Year” category.
The awards given are meant to celebrate the contributions of BAME staff, recognizing the achievements of those who have dedicated their lives to serve others, which includes exceptional initiatives and leadership, improvement of services, access to services for people from BAME, among others.
BAME stands for Black, Asian and Minority Ethic in the UK.
During the pandemic, BAME health care staff have been impacted. It was reported that one in every 6 staff of NHS are from BAME backgrounds.
"It means a lot,” said veteran National Health Service (NHS) nurse and FNA UK vice president Arlene Bautista of the award.
During the lockdown, key officers of the group decided to convene, inviting colleagues who share the same passion and vision.
“I, personally, I have a good friend who died from COVID. I have a colleague who died from COVID, so are the other officers. So we thought there are so many organizations in the UK but there is no true representation of the nurses in the UK from the Philippines,” said Bautista.
Prior to the formation of FNA-UK, only one nursing group existed in the UK, the Philippine Nurses Association UK.
Bautista said: “We thought, we have to have a voice. We have to be represented. Let’s form an association. So, the birth of the Filipino Nurses Association UK happened. That was in July 2020. If there is a silver lining of COVID, that is one of them: we formed a strong, unified heads amongst the Filipino nurses.”
Some of the veteran nurses working for the NHS who initiated the conception of the group met via social media, documenting the common sentiments and problems of newly arrived nurses in 2020, who found themselves in the thick of action fighting the novel coronavirus disease that was plaguing the country.
“Yung mga kakararating lang (sa UK) at nag-long day duty; paglabas, wala nang mabiling pagkain dahil sa panic buying. So, sina-sign post nila sa akin,” Bautista said.
She narrated: “We got our heads together. We were already throwing ideas to form a group that will be a voice of the Filipino nurses in the UK. Believe it or not, 90 percent of the officers haven’t met each other yet face to face. We only met online. That’s the beauty of social media.”
Founded on the spirit of volunteerism, the group continues to grow, with some 2,000 registered members already across the UK and regional board of directors from every region in the country.
Adding to the excitement of the members are the awards and recognition given to its leaders.
Ariel Lanada, divisional educational lead for the eurosciences, orthopaedics, trauma specialist, surgery, children’s and neonates division of Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, was named BAME Nurse of the Year.
Lanada is the incumbent president of the group.
Its founding director, Francis Michael Fernando, was also awarded Compassionate and Inclusive Leader of the Year-Initiative.
Bautista said the experience of Filipino frontliners, some of them dying during self-isolation, inspires the group to continue supporting each other and their fellow nurses, and to cultivate positive attitude as well as speak out.
As a veteran nurse, Bautista said one of her jobs is to look after international nurses and get them ready to be registered nurses in the UK.
She noted that newly arrived nurses are often timid and are afraid to say 'No'. They accept duty assignments even when it's already detrimental to their health and well-being, she said.
“Filipinos have been disproportionately affected by COVID. During the first wave, nearly 60 Filipinos died. You see, Filipinos are so subservient and that is so inherent. We are just saying 'Yes, okay',” shared Bautista.
But she said that Filipino nurses should also learn to say 'No' and speak out.
“We don’t want them to suffer in silence. We are here for them,“ said Bautista.
From delivering food during the pandemic to providing health and mental support to fellow Filipino nurses, the group has made a difference in a short period of time.