Qualifying nurse’s comment on moving to Helsinki from the Philippines: “It was worth it!”

Kaye Andrea Octaviano came to Helsinki together with other Filipino nurses last autumn. She is happy about her decision to move to the city. She commends the work community of Laakso Hospital and is willing to encourage her former colleagues to follow her example.
Kaye Andrea Octaviano celebrates: the rocky start is now in the past and she is getting the hang of the Finnish language. Photo: Kirsi Riipinen
Kaye Andrea Octaviano celebrates: the rocky start is now in the past and she is getting the hang of the Finnish language. Photo: Kirsi Riipinen

Kaye Andrea Octaviano asks whether the others would like to hear her honest opinion on coming to Finland.

“Well, it wasn’t easy,” she starts. November was grey and chilly. Octaviano says that she would wonder what on Earth she was doing here in a country with a cold climate where even the daytime was dark and she was always cold. On top of everything, the Finnish language felt impossible for her to learn.

Octaviano arrived in Helsinki six months ago in a group of roughly 30 nurses from the Philippines. Working as a nurse from a non-EU country in Finland and other EU countries requires a separate qualification, which in turn requires further training.

This pertains to Octaviano as well, even though she has graduated as a nurse and has been working in her profession for several years. A large part of her training consists of practical work at Laakso Hospital, but it also involves studying the Finnish language and theory.

The qualifying nurse’s training path is a new concept in Helsinki and all of Finland. Once a person has obtained this qualification, the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira) grants them permission to work as a nurse in Finland.

A bafflingly good welfare society

During her six months in Finland, Octaviano’s views have changed completely – so completely that she could recommend moving to Helsinki to her friends and former colleagues in the Philippines.

She says that she wants to settle in Finland permanently and apply for citizenship here. She talks about her views on a lunch break with her colleagues Nea Gonzalez and Maisa Ovaska-Tallila and Head Nurse Kirsi Fält from Ward 10.

Octaviano appreciates the Finnish welfare society and its health care and education systems. The concept of maternity and child health clinics and the amount of family leave Finnish people have sound downright baffling to her ears. In the Philippines, mothers are granted one month of maternity leave. 

Octaviano is planning to have her family reunified, which may be possible as early as this autumn. She has two school-aged daughters and a husband who is a police officer by profession but who has also recently obtained a nurse’s qualification.

“Kaye, you never told us about your husband’s studies. Let’s get him here with us, and you can serve as his mentor!”

Her colleague’s suggestion makes the whole group laugh. But why not – doing so is very much a possibility!
Since graduating as a nurse, Octaviano has worked as nurse for a year in the Philippines and four years in Saudi Arabia.

After Saudi Arabia, she finds everyday Finnish culture and women’s rights in particular free and equal. Nurses from other countries are not seen as inferior here, which was common in Saudi Arabia and felt offensive to her.

Octaviano thinks Helsinki is a nice city. People are family-oriented and things just work.

Head Nurse Kirsi Fält, qualifying nurse Kaye Andrea Octaviano and her colleagues Maija Ovaska-Tallila and Nea Gonzalez are happy about their work community. Photo: Kirsi Riipinen
Head Nurse Kirsi Fält, qualifying nurse Kaye Andrea Octaviano and her colleagues Maija Ovaska-Tallila and Nea Gonzalez are happy about their work community. Photo: Kirsi Riipinen

Mentors also learn while mentoring

Octaviano applauds the work culture of her ward. Her colleagues are friendly and have accepted her well. She feels like a full-fledged member of the team. She finds it easy to ask for help whenever she needs it.
Until she obtains her professional nurse’s qualification in Finland, Octaviano will mostly be carrying out basic care duties. 

The goal is for her to complete her nurse’s qualification path next spring. The qualifying nurse’s training path is planned individually.

Octaviano’s colleagues find that she takes initiative very actively. She is able to quickly figure out what she needs to do in each situation and has often taken care of things before anyone even has to tell her.
Patients have also liked their empathetic nurse.

“Kaye wants to speak Finnish as much as possible, and her language skills are improving day by day. She needs to resort to English less and less,” Gonzalez comments.

Ovaska-Tallila has noticed that Octaviano has a very strong work ethic. Her colleagues nod in agreement.
Fält aims to provide the newcomer and her mentor with time together so that they can go through practical matters at their own pace.

Gonzalez feels that mentoring the newcomer works both ways; she herself also learns while mentoring Octaviano. 

Studded shoes in the Finnish winter

Fält applauds the staff of her ward for mentoring the newcomer so well. She has been spending her own time mainly on administrative duties related to the training path.

Octaviano has taken care of many a practical matter by herself. For example, she acquired a tax card and a bank account independently.

Her colleagues cannot help but smile at how deftly she also got herself a second-hand dinner table – and she even knew to acquire studded shoes for the winter.

“She has integrated herself splendidly not only into the work community, but into the Finnish system and its customs in general as well,” her colleagues comment.

Octaviano lives together with two friends, who came to Finland from the Philippines in the same group with her.

In accordance with ethical recruitment principles

In addition to the qualifying nurses, care assistants from the Philippines have also come to Helsinki from the Philippines and are studying to become practical nurses alongside their work. Some of them are also planning to obtain a registered nurse’s qualification. A large part of the care assistants’ studies consists of on-the-job training, which they carry out in locations such as senior centres.

International recruitment processes will be necessary in the future as well. 

To this end, the City has established ethical principles for recruiting staff from abroad. They are intended to ensure a transparent and fair recruitment process for employees hired from abroad, and to provide sufficient support for work and settling into the country. The principles also cover promoting family reunification.

Text and photos by Kirsi Riipinen