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Posted on Feb 6 2023 by Fiona Bailey

Last year St Andrew's Healthcare welcomed a cohort of international nurses to work at the charity.

Since then, they been busy settling into their new life in the UK and adjusting to working at the organisation. Meet Aleesha Lewis who came to work with from us from Jamaica. 

What made you want to come to work in the UK?

I was looking for a change in scenery, call it a life reset so when the opportunity came up, I jumped at it. I had been working as a nurse in Jamaica but I was keen to see what developed practice looked like elsewhere.

What attracted you to St Andrew’s?

As it turned out, once I had applied I actually got quite a few hospital offers, but I told my recruitment consultant what I wanted, which was providing private care within the field of mental health. Also the St Andrew’s team were really good at communications, I had a lot of questions and they were really good at answering them all. 

But I chose St Andrew’s because it met all my requirements and there are a lot of opportunities at the charity. 

What was it like leaving Jamaica?

It was scary because I have no family in the UK at all, just two friends. Not only that, but this adventure has marked quite a few firsts for me. This is the first time I’ve travelled by myself, the first time I’ve lived by myself, paying rent and managing all the bills.

I do occasionally get home sick, but I tell myself what I’m doing is for the greater good. I have a lot of great opportunities here that I didn’t have at home.

It’s been refreshing to come here and everyone is up front and information is so accessible. For example, before I started working as a nurse, I didn’t know what a nurse’s salary was until I started doing the job and got paid, because no one in Jamaica would tell you. 

What challenges have you met throughout this whole process?

The actual process wasn’t all that difficult, the part that I found challenging was getting all my documents verified. It was costly too because everything was quoted in sterling and the exchange rate at the time was not good. It was sad to say bye to my family and friends, but I am planning on going back to see them this year once I’ve figured out the cheapest time to travel there.

When I first started at St Andrew's, I think staff were having trouble wrapping their heads around my role and some people were treating me like a student. But my CNL was wonderful with helping with my transition and she ensured everyone knew that I actually had a few years of experience under my belt. She has really shown she has confidence in me.

What is the best and worst thing about the UK?

Definitely the weather and the bland food. I don’t understand fast food, how can it only take a few minutes to cook chicken? That’s not safe surely.

The job is obviously the best thing and I feel like I have this new-found freedom. Life is at a different pace now and I love how holiday is prioritised over here – I’m not used to that. Plus, it’s taken me seven years to join a gym as I never had time back home, but now I am a fully paid-up member. 

What made you want to become a nurse?

It might sound silly, but back at school I was always called ‘nurse’. I don’t know why, maybe it was because my uniform was white or maybe it was because people thought I had an empathetic and caring nature, but when I left school my mum suggested I start looking into becoming a nurse. It felt like a natural career path to follow.

Who has had the biggest impact on your career?

My mum for sure. She has instilled some core values in me, which I will always live by. One of them is to always be empathetic towards people.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I genuinely enjoy the amount of respect I am given and how much my input into my patients' care is valued. I enjoy being able to really get to know my patients, beyond their illness.

What’s been the stand-out moment in your career so far?

A stand-out moment in my career has been seeing a very young patient who I knew was really struggling with his mental health go back out into the community and thrive. I was so excited to see him leave care and go on to build a career and care for his family. That’s when I knew I was doing something right. I won’t win every battle, but I will fight for my patients and celebrate their victories as if they were my own.

What are your ambitions for the future?

My ambitions are to become as knowledgeable and skilful in as many areas of mental health as I can. To be able to cater to different groups and to be able to blend my knowledge into caring for the more complex patients who don’t just fit into one box.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted a job like yours?

Be prepared to push yourself and to work. It’s a job of passion and it is your love for your patients that will be your fuel throughout not just your career but day to day

 What does your typical working day look like?

A typical work day involves a lot of paperwork, Meetings with different entities and agencies involved in the care of my patients, general care planning, planning and organising activities and interactions between patients and their relatives. But I always make time to sit with my patients no matter how busy the ward is. I try to make myself available so they can approach me with their thoughts and feelings.