May 12 is International Nurses Day, which culminates the International Nurses Week, celebrating one of the most trusted professions in the world. To make it far in nursing entails commitment, compassion, and a bunch of stories to tell in the unconditional service of others. Our Virtual Medical Assistants (VMAs) also have their own experiences during their time as nurses which are worth sharing.
A favorite story of ours at Xilium is that of VMA Alexa. Today, she serves as a Team Leader, responsible for multiple accounts, and is one of the most commended VMAs to have worn a Xilium uniform. But before all that, she wasn’t even sure she wanted to take up nursing.
This is her story and the story of millions of Filipinos who took up the call to become nurses.
Alexa wanted to be an archeologist, inspired by the scientists of educational shows she watched growing up. But times were difficult and Alexa’s family could not afford the education she wanted. Like many people in her situation, she gravitated to nursing.
Nursing was the default course for many Filipinos who were hoping to land opportunities abroad. Given the financial constraints at the time, she did not want to burden her aging parents and chose to make the more practical decision to abandon her dream.
She began her nursing education to the delight of her family — but breaking away from her aspirations took a toll on Alexa. Slowly, she began developing a resentment toward her degree. Before it could embitter and disillusion her, she chanced upon a lecturer who was both a registered nurse and an archeologist.
At a low point in her life, the lecturer told her how he was also forced to take the more ‘feasible’ approach. He later earned the money he needed to pursue his own dream, all while providing for his family. This encounter renewed her drive. Alexa promised herself that she would one day go back to her passions as soon as her family was better off.
After getting her license, Alexa couldn’t work abroad right away. Competition was intense and fresh graduates were not exactly on high priority in the employment spectrum.
To improve her chances, Alexa volunteered for an unpaid job at a state-funded hospital. This is a common strategy for new nurses. Working in a public hospital would allow her to earn experience and give her an edge against the competition.
Challenges continued to hound her every step. Her tenure as a volunteer nurse was partly spent dealing with difficult colleagues and difficult patients. One thing she quickly noticed was the crab mentality and superiority complex in public hospitals. As a new-hire, she ran errands for doctors and braved being publicly reprimanded when she got something wrong. Senior nurses and superiors would taunt her at every turn, refuse to train her, and generally make working in the hospital much more difficult.
Handling the folks was equally challenging. She recalls a time when a parent wrecked the nurses’ station, complaining that his son was neglected. Instead of reporting him for slander and threats, the event made her realize the bigger responsibility a nurse should bear: educating and enlightening the less fortunate. When she remembers the event, she justifies his outrage by saying, “perhaps he just wasn’t aware of the procedure.”
It is these events that have taught her to be strong and defend herself in such situations. She would assess situations with prudence, lest she lose her job. She would only respond when she was calm and rational, however long that may take. Alexa learned to be self-reliant and accountable for her actions because not all of her nurse superiors were accommodating enough to guide her.
But things weren’t always so gloomy. Some of the folks were better behaved and more respectful. Families of patients would express their gratitude with kind words or gestures. Nurses were occasionally given bread, some snacks, fruits, and vegetables. Alexa even laughingly recalls a patient asking his son to date her because of how nice and caring she was to him. These were the little things from which Alexa drew inspiration and strength to continue.
Life at Xilium
Despite all this, job opportunities in the US or Canada were calling. As Alexa had been working as an unpaid volunteer nurse for the experience, bills were beginning to pile up. As much as she had learned to see the best sides of her profession, she needed to make some changes. Alexa could not spend her professional life accepting fruits and vegetables as consolation pay.
Alexa first heard of Xilium through an online job portal recommended by a friend. Albeit with some anxiety, she sifted through the many openings with the search term: nurse. Eventually, an unnamed job vacancy requiring a nursing license with a decent starting salary caught her eye and she applied right away.
Alexa would end up working in Xilium for the next four years, becoming a core employee for what was a fledgling company at the time. What began as a job application out of financial necessity became a life-changing work experience for her.
During this time, she was earning enough for her family and helping put her siblings through school. More than the monetary benefits, Alexa stayed with Xilium for so long because of the work environment that the company affords. Not merely some half-truth gimmick to reel in applicants, the promise of work-life balance is kept and honored within the four corners of the office. Alexa has always been a go-getter and Xilium rewards its employees for proactively taking initiatives. Her cool composure and ability to navigate tense situations allowed her to climb the ranks and become a Team Leader.
Learning From Life, Planning Ahead
As of this writing, Alexa has no plans of going abroad yet. As the main provider for her family, she feels that there’s still much to do at home. Her father has recently suffered a stroke which she immediately identified thanks to her training. He is currently undergoing rehab that she personally oversees. The incident made her more appreciative of her family. As the breadwinner, she actively participates in decision-making within the family.
“I’m glad I took up nursing,” she says, “it saved my father’s life.”
Ten years from now, she sees herself raising her own family and pursuing a medical career abroad. In the meantime, she’ll continue working somewhere close to her family, where she feels she’s most needed.
Her experiences in the hospital not only prepared her for work at Xilium, but it also helped her learn some important lessons about the nursing profession and life as a whole. Alexa believes that a nurse is someone who is unconditionally compassionate and hardworking regardless of the toxicity of her environment. This is a virtue she hopes to impart to everyone, be they nurses or archeologists.