Royal Free's Filipino nurses celebrate 20th anniversary at the hospital

Six of the Royal Free's Filipino nurses outside the hospital

Jerri among some of the other nurses who joined the Royal Free from the Philippines twenty years ago - Credit: Royal Free

Twenty years after a group of 15 Filipino nurses who joined the Royal Free Hospital together, one of their number has looked back at a remarkable journey.

Maria Jeralyn Montes-Pagcu, known as Jerri, told of how welcome the 15 had been made. 

New arrivals! The team of 15 Filipino nurses who joined the Royal Free back in 2001

New arrivals! The team of 15 Filipino nurses who joined the Royal Free back in 2001 - Credit: Royal Free

She said: “Everything was provided, from the plane ticket to the first few months of accommodation. We felt very welcome; everything had been thought of to make sure we settled in.”

The group joined as part of a recruitment drive, and two decades later, ten of them still work at the Royal Free, more than 6,700 miles from the islands where they were born.

Jerri, who was 27 when she came to England, still has the plane ticket she flew over with, and gave birth to her three children at the Royal Free.

Nurse Jerri as she began her career at the Royal Free in 2001

Nurse Jerri as she began her career at the Royal Free in 2001. Twenty years later, she's still there! - Credit: Royal Free


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“I’m so thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to develop professionally and specialise as a nurse in gynaecology," she said. "I’ve always felt encouraged to take opportunities available to me – hard work, passion and upholding work values are the key to success.”

The group still have pictures showing their early days in the UK – and even documented the first time Jerri saw snow fall.

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She had taken a nursing degree in the Philippines when she saw the Royal Free's job advert – and after an interview and an exam, she was among a pioneering cohort of nurses to come to Hampstead.

The plane ticket Jerri flew to London from Manila with in 2001

The plane ticket Royal Free nurseJerri flew to London from Manila with in 2001 - Credit: Royal Free

The group lived together in hospital accommodation for their first year in the UK, and became close. Though a handful of the nurses have moved on, Jerri said their bond is still an important one.

“It’s difficult for us all to meet up now that we have families and life is busy, and especially during the pandemic, but we are still close and I love bumping into my colleagues around the hospital,” she said.

“I know I speak on behalf of all of us when I say how grateful I am for the opportunities the Royal Free Hospital has given us. I’m so proud to work for the NHS – it’s a wonderful service and I’m so grateful for it.”

The new arrivals from the Philippines outside the Royal Free in 2001

The new arrivals from the Philippines outside the Royal Free in 2001 - Credit: Royal Free

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