The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Celebrating our international nurses - Dhionis and Marineo Llanaj

13 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 Dhionis and Marineo Llanaj - twins originally from Albania - to tell us a bit about their roles and profession.

Dhionis Llanaj picture Marineo: We arrived in the UK in July 2018 soon after qualifying as registered nurses in Albania. We wanted to explore opportunities and pursue our careers outside of Albania. We decided on the UK among other European countries because we are able to speak the language well, avoiding the challenges associated with the language barrier. There were a lot of things that we did not know about England, well, we only knew about the cold and rainy weather…

The journey to become Registered Nurses was not easy. The NMC process is long, expensive and it requires a lot of patience. There were times that we had meltdowns, but we motivated each other to keep on and make our dream a reality. We made sure to look after each other's wellbeing by intentionally taking our mind off things, playing board games and taking exercise classes.

Having a twin brother is a very unique feeling and it’s definitely the main reason how today we have achieved so many things in our life. To take one example, while preparing for our nursing exams we practised on each other with one of us acting as the examiner, while another carried out a station. This helped us to identify and correct errors and ensured we passed the exams - which we both did! We are thankful to have each other because it has made us stronger to overcome the many difficulties we have encountered.

When we arrived in the UK we started working as Community Healthcare Assistants and later, as support workers in care homes. In September 2019, we joined LTHT as Clinical Support Workers in Neuroscience and ICU.

The day we received our official registration numbers and started working as Adult Nurses was an unforgettable moment. That day was full of joy and excitement, but behind this success was a great team and without their support this dream would not have become a reality. Working as qualified nurses and contributing to providing the best possible care to our vulnerable patients, especially during this pandemic, is hard to describe.

The funniest thing for us is when staff get confused with who is who. We are identical twins and both work in the same specialty, but in separate units. Dhionis works in ICU, and when a Neuro ICU nurse transfers a patient to the Neuro ward, where I (Marineo) work, they question me, "Dhionis, what are you doing here?"

Since we were in primary school, we both knew we wanted to be nurses, and that was because our older brother (Ridvan) had an accident when he was 11 years old (we were both three years’ old). After the crash, our brother's life was spent in and out of hospitals, and we had to visit him most of the time. He was left with a lifelong tracheostomy, epilepsy, and right-side paralysis as a result of the crash. Later on, we were able to assist him with trachea care as well as daily life. Our brother's story inspired us to become nurses and help others in the same way that nurses had helped our brother.

There are few things that make us homesick for Albania, but the warm Mediterranean weather and sunsets by the beach are definitely two of them. The “Blue Eye Spring” in Saranda and “Apollonia” in Fier are two natural and archaeological attractions in Albania that should not be missed if you ever decide to visit!

There are many aspects of LTHT that we appreciate, but the most important is the support given to the staff. All departments pay close attention to the welfare of their employees and deal with any problems that arise. We are grateful to work with LTHT and their ongoing efforts to protect and assist its workforce. During the Covid-19 pandemic, LTHT provided us with a place to stay so that we wouldn't have to endanger the safety of our vulnerable brother. This means a lot to us and reassures us that we are in safe hands.