The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Celebrating our international nurses - Elina Kabwe

10 May 2021

We are celebrating our nurses, midwives and operating department practitioners (ODPs) in a two-week long celebration during May that takes in the international recognition days for each profession. Today we're putting the spotlight on our international nurses - celebrating the contributions of nurses from around the world who have come to Leeds. It's over to Elina Kabwe to tell us a bit about her role and profession.

Elina: I am originally from Zambia, which is in the southern part of Africa. I trained as a Registered Nurse in Zambia for 3 years and afterwards went to do a post-graduate training course as a theatre nurse. I worked as a theatre nurse in Zambia for 9 years before deciding to come to the United Kingdom.

I came to the UK on 12 September 2001, the day after the terrorist attacks in New York. My family were extremely worried, and it took a long time to get my flight to the UK because of all the extra security, but I was determined to get here!

Elina KabweAs a qualified nurse, I first had to do an adaptation so that I could get my UKCC (NMC) registration. After this I was successful in applying for a job in paediatric theatres, where I worked for over 15 years. I then decided to apply for a clinical educator role in theatre as I have always had a passion for sharing and teaching.

My experience in nursing practice has given me a good understanding of the education needs and issues nurses face. It means as a clinical educator I have been able to streamline the training we provide so that clinical teams have the correct training to deliver the best care to patients.

Working as a nurse gives me a huge amount of job satisfaction, especially when meeting someone in the street who you once nursed as a patient and they say thank you because you made their stay in hospital more bearable. What I love most about my job is that we make a real difference to people’s lives. It’s seeing a good outcome for a patient and seeing the joy in that patient and their family, and knowing I have played a part in contributing to their lives.

I’ve been grateful seeing the public’s support for nurses and other key workers during the pandemic. It’s been a challenging time, understanding and adapting to this new virus on the job. Knowing we’ve had the support from the local community meant we could rise to the challenge and continue providing the best care for our patients.

I have a very optimistic outlook on life, so I was determined to see the good that has come out of the pandemic. Many of our theatre colleagues had to take up new roles to help in Critical Care, which meant we were very busy working with Critical Care educators to ensure our theatre staff had the right skills and training to be able to help very sick patients. The need for social distancing made us work and think differently, and we have now fully adopted virtual training.

I’ve worked with some amazing people throughout my nursing career in the UK and have learnt so much including some interesting cultural differences. I can look back and laugh about it now but found it very strange when I first arrived in the UK. For instance, looking people in the eye when you are talking to someone is very rude in Zambian culture, and yet in British culture you are perceived as being untrustworthy or uninterested if you don’t. It was a huge cultural shock. Despite this I have had and continue to have an enjoyable experience here in the UK. I have met some truly lovely people.