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Farmer’s son is highest ranking Filipino nurse in UK

Rose Eclarinal, ABS-CBN Europe New Bureau

Posted at Sep 07 2021 10:59 PM

Edmund Tabay, Director of Nursing, University Hospitals Sussex National Health Service (NHS) Foundation Trust, NHS England. Rose Eclarinal, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau
Edmund Tabay, Director of Nursing, University Hospitals Sussex National Health Service (NHS) Foundation Trust, NHS England. Rose Eclarinal, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

LONDON – Forty-six-year-old Edmund Tabay from Tubungan, Iloilo is now considered to be the highest ranking British-Filipino nurse from the Philippines holding a very senior manager position in United Kingdom’s National Health Service or the NHS. This was confirmed by an alliance of senior-level nurses in the UK. 
 
On September 1, Tabay took up the Director of Nursing role at the newly-created mega trust at the University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust. 
 
“It is an honour for me and also for the rest of Filipinos working in the United Kingdom. There are so many talented Filipino nurses here but we have not been given a chance in that post. I think this is a start and I am hoping that I will serve as an inspiration for the rest of the Filipino nurses, for those who are coming here in the next few years, and those who have been here 20 years ago,” Tabay told ABS-CBN News. 
 
Tabay is a proud son of a farmer and a stay-at-home mother who raised 9 children. He credits his parents, growing up in penury, and the values he learned during years of toiling the fields, for what he has achieved today.
 
“I came from a poor family back home. I am very honoured and very proud to say that I am the person that I am today because of their hard work and it has influenced my work ethic because I have witnessed the difficult life we had back home," said Tabay.
 
Tabay is urbane and well-spoken, with very little traces of foreign accent. So when he shares to people that that he once toiled a family farm overseas, planted rice (or palay), corn and other crops, many would not believe him. It sounded surreal to some people that the Pinoy achiever in the NHS has built the foundation of his studies and career in the nursing professions from farming. 
 
“When I talk to people about this, that I come from a farming family and the hard work that I experienced in high school because we had to work in the farm, people wouldn’t believe it,” Tabay said. 
 
He graduated from West Visayan State University in 1996. Up until he became a registered nurse in the Philippines, he would still help the family with farm work on weekends. 
 
"On weekends, if I’m not working, we still had to help in the farm,” said Tabay. 
 
Life-changing Journey 
 
In 2001, Tabay joined the exodus of nurses in the UK to work in the NHS. In a land far afield, he did not envisage that two decades later, he would achieve so much. 

“When I came here in 2001, that time, I said, if I will get the post of senior staff nurse, I will be the happiest Filipino nurse in the country,” said Tabay. 
 
“The reason why I said that is because I came from a different background, and I did not realise that I will be given the same opportunity as my colleagues who have been here for a long time, who did their training in this country.” 
 
But when he started to hold leadership positions in the NHS, it became apparent to him that he can be on par or above his British counterparts. 
 
“The training in the Philippines is extremely good. I am going to say that the base, core training in the Philippines, is actually much better in terms of theoretical knowledge,” Tabay said. 
 
Like many overseas Filipinos, he also overcame, racism, self-doubt and many more.

“Wherever you go, if people will say there is no discrimination at work, then these people are deluded. Because it is happening," he said. 
 
“I fought for it. It is a challenge and I tend to rise above those challenges. It had a negative impact in my life, but at the same time, perhaps the positive impact is greater because that pushed me to achieve more,” he enthused. 
 
Achieving professional success 
 
He also shared that ambition, determination and passion for nursing excellence are key in achieving professional success in the nursing field. 
 
“For me, it’s very important to have ambition because that guides an individual of what he or she wants to achieve in the future. Believing in yourself and at the same time working with those people who would be able to support you in terms of your career, ” he said. 
 
The farmer’s son shifted from provincial existence to fast-faced, ambitious career-driven life in the nursing field in one of the most advanced countries in the world, when the opportunity arose. But he made sure he took with him the core strength and work ethic he learned from his humble beginnings. 

He now wants to serve an inspiration to many Filipino nurses in the UK. The Nursing and Midwifery Council registers 35,679 who trained in the Philippines. Filipino nurses now make up the largest group of international nurses registered in the UK. 

“Working with other people is really important. You might be the best clinical nurse but if you don’t work with people collaboratively, you will not be able to achieve something or anything," he said. 
 
Asked what he thought was his best quality as a leader, he said: “I have those knowledge and skills necessary to do the job, but at the same time I’m a people person. I value every single person that I work with." 
 
With that, any work, he said, is doable. 

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