Shinu Rachel Mathew
Shinu Rachel Mathew was born and grew up in Kerala, India. It had been her dream to come and work for the NHS in the UK, and in 2019 she managed to achieve her lifelong ambition by securing employment as a nurse with NHS Wales. Shinu moved to the South Wales town of Merthyr Tydfil, where she currently works in Prince Charles Hospital within the Gastroenterology department.
“I first thought about becoming a nurse when I was around 14 years old. My father became unwell and was admitted to the ICU, where he sadly passed away. Seeing so many of these nurses taking care of him during this time was truly inspiring. They treated and cared for him like he was their own father, and I thought to myself ‘OK, I need to be a nurse so that I can help others in this position. It is such a rewarding job’. After completing my Bachelor of Nursing in India, I worked in an Accident and Emergency Department in Kerala for 3 years, before taking a short break to have my first child.
“I had always wanted to come to the UK to work, and as soon as I passed all the necessary exams and tests, I couldn’t wait to make the move. NHS Wales even reimbursed the fees for these exams as part of my welcome package. This really made a big difference as it makes the UK the only place in the world where a nurse can come to work without spending lots of money.
“Doing all my tests online made the process of coming to Wales so much easier. Although it was a long and challenging process; I was thrilled when I had the opportunity to enrol with an agency. I had always wanted to move to the UK, so in preparation I decided to do a lot of research on Google and YouTube to find the best fit for where to live and work. Although I was not that familiar with Wales before moving here, I was pleasantly surprised with how friendly and welcoming the people and country are. I honestly expected Wales to have a lot more snow, but thankfully the most extreme weather I have to deal with is the rain!
“When I first moved to Wales, I had to make the difficult decision to move on my own at first and leave my young child and husband back in India. Wales appealed to me as it has a very low cost of living compared to other parts of the UK - which gives me more options and allow my wage to go further. As it has a lower cost of living, it allowed me to make arrangements to bring my family over much quicker than if I was working in other parts of the UK, such as London. Reuniting my family was of primary importance to me and it was a special moment when they finally joined me in our new home in Wales.
“When I arrived in Wales in 2019 to start my career with the NHS, it was unfortunately just as the Covid pandemic was starting, which presented many challenges no one anticipated. Despite the difficult situation, I was still given a warm welcome at my new accommodation by my amazing landlady. She welcomed me into my new home and even helped me set up the SIM card for my phone so I could contact my family back home. She was typical of how kind people are in Wales; helping me go to Church, inviting me into her home and even making me food during a period of time that was very challenging, both professionally and personally.
“Shortly after I was able to bring my family over to Wales to be with me. Having my husband and child here made a huge difference and was it was a blessing to have my family back together again. It was so great, that we recently welcomed another baby into our growing family.
“I currently work in the Gastroenterology Department at Prince Charles Hospital, which has provided some unique situations I did not expect. One of these situations included learning new ‘slang’ terms that are popular with older people, such as using the word ‘wee’. I was not aware of that term before coming to Wales and had no idea it meant requesting to go to the toilet. These are the little things you can only learn from experience, from spending time with the patients and developing your understanding of how people actually talk in real life, and maybe not how things are said in a textbook.
“Looking to the future, I would like to develop my career and learn new skills to enable me to achieve new opportunities and reach a band 6 nursing position. I am hugely proud of working for the NHS organisation, as it is the dream of so many nurses in India to come to the UK.
“With 2 young children, it is natural that all my time is devoted to caring for them, but I have learned to love making traditional Welsh food for my family. I am particularly proud of my Welsh cakes, which are hugely popular with my son who asks for a different cake every day before he goes to school! I just love making food for my kids and it is a hobby that brings me a great amount of joy.”