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International Nurses Day 2021: Life as an overseas student nurse in Sunderland

ByPress Office Sunderland

May 28, 2021

The critical roles and responsibilities nurses play across global healthcare systems has been thrown into sharp focus during the last 12 months of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As nurses continue to be at the frontline of patient care in hospitals and across their communities, we caught up with two students during International Nurses Day 2021, who are furthering their knowledge and education at Sunderland, sharing their experiences of the nursing profession both in the UK and in their home country.

Kamolrat Cheangdee and Jingwen Li are two of more than 600 International and EU nurses who have enrolled onto our BSc Nursing Top up, MSc Nursing and MSc Public Health, at our Sunderland and London campuses in the last four years.

Sue Brent, Head of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences at the University of Sunderland, says: “We are delighted to join our colleagues across the world in celebration of the incredible work nurses do, and looking to the future of how we teach and train our own nurses.”

She adds “Over the last year, many of our student nurses, from those just graduating to those in the last months of their study, began working and taking up voluntary posts in hospitals across the North East, as the NHS faced unprecedented pressures due to the pandemic.

“We are incredibly proud of all they have achieved, and on this International Nurses Day it’s fantastic to highlight the work they do, committing themselves to our programmes and to the healthcare settings they’ve been working in.”

In the last five years the University’s School of Nursing has grown from a fledgling training provider with just a handful of nurses, to a range of programmes whose reputation now attracts hundreds of students from across the globe to our Sunderland, London and overseas campuses.

Kamolrat Cheangdee, 31, from Thailand

Driven by a love of caring of others, Kamolrat began studying full-time on the MSc Nursing programme in January this year.

“I love to take care of people. When I can make them smile and relieve their pain or stress, that makes my heart so happy,” she says.

Kamolrat chose to further develop her skills at Sunderland due to the “outstanding” support she says was given to international students by the University, and the consistency of the modules on the nursing programme.

Prior to arriving at the University, Kamolrat had been working as a nurse in the Cardiovascular Thoracic Surgery Intensive care unit for nine years in Thammasat University Hospital in Thailand, after graduating with a BSc Nursing at Thammasat University. She also spent a month in the hospital working in the intensive care unit dealing with Covid-19 patients.

Once she graduates from her degree at Sunderland, Kamolrat will fly back to Thailand to work in the same hospital, where she plans to take the research she’s learned at Sunderland to support the training of new nurses.

She added: “I will also try to solve the problem of why new nurses sometimes leave from their jobs after training.”

Asked how the MSc Nursing programme is supporting her knowledge so far, she said: “I really enjoy the class. Although we have been studying online, I can feel I get all content I need. The library is also very good, easy to find the books or articles I need. I have also made friends around the world now, working as nurses just like as me and it’s so exciting!

“I would certainly recommend Sunderland and the nursing programme to others, it’s a great course to study in a lovely city, with lovely beaches and lovely people.”

Asked why she thinks it’s important to celebrate the role of nurses today – International Nurses Day, she says: “We do our work with our heart and care for people, even when it is not noticed on our job description.”

Jingwen Li, 24, from China

Jingwen says it was her mum’s suggestion to study nursing that inspired her to help others suffering from an illness, and led to her to completing her bachelors degree in nursing in her home country.

Jingwen then began working in a small rural clinic for a year, her daily routine included greeting new patients, guiding medicine, and collaborating with doctors on treatments.

During the pandemic, Jingwen says: “In the first half of the last year, I was working in the clinic. Even though at that time we had social distancing, there were still some residents who were injured or suffered illnesses that they couldn’t manage on their own. They didn’t want to go to hospital due to pandemic, so, my colleges and I continued working there for them.”

Keen to expand her knowledge of the profession, a close friend of Jingwen’s suggested she join her on the MSc Nursing Programme at the University of Sunderland.

“I really trusted my friend’s judgement, so decided to come to Sunderland.

“The course content gave me a big surprise because before now, the nursing courses I’ve ever studied were all about specific diseases and how to deal with the patients as a nurse. I never expected I would be learning the modules of business and education, like leadership and management as well as teaching and learning. This is essential and practical for an individual to go further in the nursing profession. The instructors are all brilliant, responsible, and devoted. I’m really satisfied with my experiences here.”

Asked why she thinks it’s important to celebrate International Nurses’ Day, Jingwen said: “From my perspective, celebrating means reflecting. It reminds people of importance of nursing work, and for nurses to reflect on the meaning of their work. It also gives people an opportunity to show their thanks to nurses.”

Once she graduates, Jingwen hope to continue her work as a nurse in the UK and will be applying for a role initially in a care home as she prepares for her exams.

Her advice to other overseas students thinking of studying at Sunderland is: “Be sure to make contact with other peer students and keep improving your language.

“Also, learn to make use of the resources in terms of studying and career support.

“I would certainly recommend the nursing programme to others at Sunderland as the course content is really good. The cost of living in Sunderland is not very high as well. This city is really rural and peaceful, which is great for studying and enjoying life.”