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Being seen fully as human beings, beyond the service we provide: The lived experiences of Filipino nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK

Borbolla, E. (2023). Being seen fully as human beings, beyond the service we provide: The lived experiences of Filipino nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Filipino nurses have been integral to the running of the UK healthcare system since the 1990s, and more recently, in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, there are over 40,000 Filipinos in the NHS, accounting for 8.5% of the entire nursing workforce. Notably, there has been a disproportionate impact on Filipino healthcare workers (HCW) in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it is estimated that between 25% to 36% of HCW deaths from COVID-19 were Filipinos. Research on this topic remains scarce, as there are only a few studies that examine this phenomenon; the research thus far indicates that Filipino HCW are typically over-represented on the front-line and find it more challenging to assert their voices to advocate for themselves. Moreover, in the UK media, there was a clear disparity of the exposure between the celebration of the heroism of Filipino nurses and the coverage of disproportionate death rates within the Filipino HCW community in the UK, and therefore this research study aims to bridge that gap. A qualitative study was conducted using Interpretative Phenomenological Approach (IPA), and six Filipino nurses were recruited using purposive and snowball sampling methods. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using IPA; four main themes emerged from the analysis - “Making sense of the nursing identity”, “Inescapability and relentlessness of COVID-19”, “It’s sink or swim: Psychological welfare”, and “Reflecting on the Filipino identity”. These findings demonstrated that Filipino nurses initially identified closely to their nursing identity, reinforced by generations of ingrained cultural factors which simultaneously helped in assimilating to the UK culture; however, throughout the experiences of marginalisation and neglect during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a shift in the way they related to themselves and the profession. In demonstrating their stories of relentless sacrifice, mental health impacts, and intergenerational narratives, participants highlighted a growing sense of empowerment as they started to re-negotiate their Filipino cultural identity. Clinical implications, recommendations for policy and workplace practice, and suggestions for future research to continue exploring this underrepresented phenomenon are discussed.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RT Nursing
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of Borbolla Thesis 2023 PDF-A.pdf] Text - Accepted Version
This document is not freely accessible until 31 December 2026 due to copyright restrictions.


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