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70 for 70

Jay Parmar

“It is my aim that we create a safe, caring environment that is highly productive and works within our resources. I moved from India to work for the NHS and I know how fortunate we are to have such a fantastic service."

As a child growing up in a small village in India, Jay used to read the one newspaper that was delivered to the town to all his neighbours. He taught people how to read and write and his passion for learning saw him walk four miles every day – sometimes without shoes – to secondary school.

Here, Jay tells us how he completed his nurse training, his experience of working in hospitals in India and how – thanks to the kindness of a stranger – he ended up working at Sussex Partnership.

“It is my aim that we create a safe, caring environment that is highly productive and works within our resources. I moved from India to work for the NHS and I know how fortunate we are to have such a fantastic service. My experience of working in a hospital prior to coming to England was patients being described by their diagnosis rather than their name. At Burrowes we see the person first and this is really important to me and a crucial part of my practice.

“I grew up in a small village in India. In my village we would have one newspaper delivered to our local shop and it would often fall to me to read the news to my neighbours as I was one of very few people able to read in the village thanks to a real passion for learning at my village school. I helped people to read and to write letters. I was grateful for my education from a very young age. Comparing my home here and the home I grew up in, it’s a different world. Growing up we had no electricity, there were no roads just dusty tracks and it was hard for buses to ferry people between villages.

“My secondary school was in another village and I had to walk four miles in my slipper shoes, and sometimes no shoes. I was good at studying, I enjoyed it a lot and my teachers had high hopes for me although there was no career information as such. When I finished school I initially started working on a farm. I came across an advert for nurses training in the paper. I did not know what nursing was but I saw that the training came with a stipend, accommodation and a guarantee of work. This was a huge opportunity so I applied and was successful.

“Once qualified I began worked as a staff nurse in Porbandar, the city where Ghandi was born. I enjoyed the work but it was challenging. The environment was tough and I saw infection spread quickly through poor needle hygiene. I started spending about a third of my salary on disposable needles to try and reduce the risk of cross contamination and infection. I was lucky that the longer I was there and the more people saw me doing this, the more people donated needles. A lot of patients waited to see me because they knew that my practise was safer than some other nurses.

“After a while I went to went to study my Masters in psychiatry in Bangalore. I stayed with friends in Bangalore the night before I went to get my results. They had been reading about the NHS and had applied to be interviewed for a position to work in the NHS in England.

“There was a lot of excitement and they knew that representatives from the NHS would be interviewing graduates the next day. They believed the NHS to be safe and good and they were keen to work in such a different environment. Despite not having applied in advance I was supported by an NHS director to fill out an application form on the day. I passed through the written exam and an interview and was offered a role at Sussex Partnership Trust working on the dementia ward.

“I had never left India, I did not have a passport and this big change had not really been part of my plans! It was 2004 and the journey to England was my first time on a plane. I had saved up and bought a nice suit to wear for the journey. I was really concerned how I would appear on an aeroplane as I thought everyone would be incredibly rich to be able to travel in this way. When I was on the plane I realised most travellers were like me and some even needed my help to be able to complete their landing cards. It was not what I expect at all. I loved the flying part it was so exciting and so different!

“After a bit of confusion getting from the airport to Chichester (I am indebted to the kindness of a complete stranger who gave me a lift and helped me find my way!) I found myself ready to start work. It was all so different from what I was used to and I was quite unsure at first.

“But, I got into the swing of it and I am very grateful for all the support I have received from the Burrowes Staff team. We have had a lot of laughs along the way ! The first night I was leaving work I realised I did not know how I was going to get back home, I had heard English trains were very expensive. A colleague helped me to go and buy my ticket and was shocked when I pulled out £600 in cash in anticipation of an extortionate train fare.

“The NHS gave me opportunities I never expected. They are a fantastic, fair employer that offers equal opportunities. I felt like I was not bringing much to the table but the NHS just looks for someone’s ability and willingness to work. I have that and a passion for the work I do and have enjoyed every minute of my time here.

“When I think about hospitals in India and speak with colleagues form across the world we know that the best care for patients is found in the NHS."