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...BlogsMay Parsons: how language skills shaped her journey to the United Kingdom
May Parsons: how language skills shaped her journey to the United Kingdom

 

May's story is about determination, dreams, and a desire to help those in her care.  

  

The beginning of the journey 

Born and raised in the Philippines, May developed a desire to go into the nursing profession after watching her mother struggle with her health. After completing her nursing education in the Philippines in 2000, May turned her focus to relocating to the UK to work as a nurse for the NHS.  

“I knew I wanted to move to the UK, but it wasn’t a simple thing. Leaving your home country and immigrating to a new place is a massive undertaking,” May said.  

As Associate Chief Nurse and Director for Risk, Governance and Compliance in Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust in the UK, today May's impact extends far beyond hospital walls. She embodies the values of empathy, compassion, and professionalism that define the nursing profession. Whether comforting a patient in distress, advocating for their needs, or collaborating with her colleagues to deliver quality care, May exemplifies the power of good communication.  

Her journey serves as an inspiration to aspiring healthcare professionals around the world. But May’s journey isn’t just the story of seeking a better career; it’s about transcending borders, overcoming obstacles, and embracing opportunities.  

 

Challenges along the way 

As OET’s Global Ambassador, May is passionate about sharing her experience of immigration and rising the ranks of the NHS with thousands of nurses around the world.  

However, the path to achieving her dream was not without its challenges. Navigating the complex immigration process and meeting requirements demanded meticulous planning and perseverance. While these days healthcare professionals must pass an English competency test to practice in the UK, when May arrived this was not a requirement – but is something she believes would have made a difference to her experience.    

Unlike the OET Test, no other English-language assessment evaluates you on scenarios and knowledge directly related to your healthcare specialty and prepares you for the workplace at the same time. Reflecting on that time in her life, in a new country, new job, and with a new language to adapt to, May wishes she’d been able to take an assessment like the OET Test.  

 

Preparing for workplace communication from day one 

When May first started working in the NHS system, she recognised that a lack of confidence in her communication skills was something she’d need to overcome.  

“That’s a hard part about being an international nurse – when you come to any English-speaking country there’s always going to be a transition period where you’re used to listening and reacting in your native language,” May acknowledged. “OET can prepare you for that transition phase, so you’re equipped to deal with the accents, speed, tone, terminology. You’ll be prepared for the workplace.” 

Reflecting on this phase, May emphasises the importance of great communication skills to navigate the complexities of moving to a new country.  

"I remember my first day at work where I had to really listen when people talked to me," May recalls. "I found that they spoke quickly, and that was the first time I was having to think about the seriousness of the job, and how I was going to build my confidence. At 23 I didn’t feel confident enough to ask them to repeat what they said or explain that I couldn’t understand them.” 

 

The power of good communication for safe, effective care 

Today, when May visits hospitals in her native Philippines, she speaks with nurses about the importance of building up their English language skills. 

This is a topic she’s passionate about and one of the reasons she’s working alongside OET as our Global Ambassador.  

“I want other nurses and healthcare professionals to know that being prepared and having strong communication and English-language skills makes the move overseas and into English-speaking settings smoother,” she said.  

“The communication foundation that you get from taking the OET Test isn’t just for the first few weeks of working in these English-speaking settings – it will help you throughout your career,’ she said. “Ultimately, it will help you at work and in the community, making the immigration process much easier.” 

 

 

Read more about May’s story and ambassadorship announcement. 

 

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