International Nurses Day: Meet the clinical research nurse who left the Philippines for Cambridge

As a youngster in the Philippines, Jimmy Agato grew up dreaming of following his surgeon father into the medical profession. He set up a step-by-step plan of how he would follow his ambition into the medical world.

But disaster struck in 2009 when his father died during the second year of his studies. This left Jimmy as the main breadwinner for his mum de el, who has rheumatoid arthritis, and his four brothers de el.

After graduating from university and getting his license to practice, Jimmy didn’t start working as a nurse straight away, instead taking a job as a call center. Before he knew it, he’d been there for five years and yearned for a career in the medical world.

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Jimmy left his job in the call center and started working for government hospitals in the Philippines. He knew however that the goal was to work overseas.

Initially he felt like he wanted to move to Cambridge, because a former bandmate also moved to the city. And the more he researched, the more he found Cambridge University Hospitals matched up with what he wanted from an employer.

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (Addenbrookes site)

And, having looked into the city, the swimming pools and cycling infrastructure only cemented a desire to up sticks to the United Kingdom. Upon arriving, Jimmy says he realized he made a ‘great choice’.

Now Jimmy works as a clinical research nurse at Addenbrook’s. He has spoken about his decision to leave the Philippines to mark International Nurse’s Day.

He said: “Choosing the hospital for me was easy, I targeted Cambridge all because I have a bandmate that was here before me. Kind of a shallow reason but that’s what it was, and I also had enough of the sun so wherever it’s cold .

“Realizing though that this is a serious decision that would define my next years, I looked for other choices, where I ended up choosing CUH more. The history around the name, being the cycling capital, a safe place outside of London. Most of all, since I’m a part fish, there’s a swimming pool close by that had such a good photo it made me dream of swimming after a long day’s work.

“After gathering the courage to live alone overseas, late 2018, I applied in a recruitment agency. In a suit and tie, I passed the nerve-racking initial interview and got started with the requirements. First was the daunting IELTS, then the nursing based CBT that I needed to pass in the Philippines.The last time I was this serious on a review was almost a decade ago for my licensure examinations, on top of the pressure we also borrowed the money needed to pay for them.

“Fortunately, I passed them both in one take, and I’ve never felt so lucky and blessed, I just thought, God’s just so good to me. At this point it’s just the papers remaining. Learning from the other recruit’s they said it’s just all smooth sailing by then, but lo and behold, Covid-19 broke out, and the deployment ban for nurses happens.”

Jimmy was initially concerned Covid could dash his hopes of becoming a nurse in Cambridge. But as the lockdowns rumbled on and restrictions began to finally lift, he was told nurses were once again allowed to enter the UK in September 2020.

When he was finally given the go-ahead with the coronavirus restrictions, Jimmy thought he would be finally able to board the plane to Cambridge. But, once again, disaster struck and he hadn’t managed to secure a visa in time.

He says from suspense to manic episodes and cold feet, he felt it all during the wait for the paperwork. While constantly wondering who he would care for his mum when he left for work.

He added: “All I can think of that time though was my mum whom I was taking care of. Simple worries of who’s going to make her the warm bag in the morning when her knees just won’t let her stand, who’s making her coffee with pandesal with a side of tablets, the weekly methotrexate injections because she can’t stand the tablet, we just got used to the routine.

“My brothers though were all grown up then, all capable independent men, that I actually got more worried about my cats, whom have no clue what’s happened when they don’t see me anymore. All for the sake of a brighter future.”

In October 2020, Jimmy was finally given the all-clear with his visa. And negative Covid test in hand, he set off for Addenbrooke’s.

He said: “How can I forget a scenic sunset shining on my face, while I was waiting for the boarding call, to add it was my first time traveling abroad. Anticipating a total of 17 hours of international flight, on my own.. .what If I get lost?or overslept on my window seat.Hopefully no one put’s a bullet in my baggage and get detained.All the airport news going around.I just had to tell myself, ‘You’re a grown man now, man up, and this is where your English kicks in.’

“The plane took off in the dark, touched down Qatar, took pictures in Doha, stretched, then a connecting flight to Heathrow. I arrived early morning where I thought there was air-condition in the parking lot because my hands just blushed the minute I stepped foot outside.

“I got welcomed by the recruitment team who walked me to Grantchester house where we settled for 14 days to isolate. After a month of intensive training (and learning how to make a proper spaghetti) with the help of the Education team I passed OSCE and got my PIN in December 2020.”

He started working in trauma and orthopedics before eventually deciding he wanted to pursue research. Inspired by the university setting, Jimmy decided he wanted to get back into studying and take part in cutting edge science.

He said: “The goal of research is to improve what is currently existing, to get the applied discipline of science moving forward. With my role now, in a way I get to contribute to that. The clinical trials, the current studies, and all the learning that’s ahead of me, and I get to make a living as a full-time staff of the hospital.

“When I arrived here I was undecided, said ok I’ll stay for a year, or do my bond of two years. Now though where I’m at, I genuinely with conviction say that it’s a bright future ahead of me, no time limits, just looking forward for more opportunities in the future.”


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