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In My Shoes With Hazel Joy Mercado

As we celebrate International Nurses’ Day, while reflecting on the challenges of the last couple of years, it feels fitting to pay homage to the amazing individuals who make up our healthcare workforce. The backbone of medical teams up and down the country, nurses are often the crucial link between doctors and patients, offering vital support to both - something Nurse Manager Hazel Joy Mercado is incredibly proud of.

Mum to 3-year-old twin girls and a senior staff member in a specialist centre in London, the Philippines-born nurse looks back on the people and principles that have influenced her, and the sacrifices she’s made to carve out a successful career. Hazel also chats with us about finding that elusive work-life balance, how the pandemic made her re-evaluate what matters in life and her determination to always be the best version of herself.

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Tell us about yourself?

I’m Hazel Joy Mercado: a nurse manager, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a wife and a mum of almost 3-year-old twin girls. I’d consider myself as goal-oriented, determined and hardworking. If you ask my friends, they’d say that I’m loud, hyper-energetic, a go-getter and a person that never runs out of stories to tell!

I’ve been in London since 2014 and have since become a British citizen, but I’m proud to have been born and raised in the beautiful Philippines. I’ve learned to cherish the richness of my Filipino history and heritage, while integrating myself into London’s melting pot of cultures and languages.

What makes you tick?

I think what makes me tick is my drive for excellence. I’ve always wanted to do my best in everything. I had that competitive streak at school, and I would always want to get a perfect - or at least the highest! - score. I think I get this from my mum, who comes from a family of academic achievers; she’d always remind me that I have to work hard to achieve my dreams. Being the youngest of three siblings, I also wanted to match or surpass my older siblings. I had to study hard to qualify for scholarships and afford private schools. I graduated with flying colours and topped my nursing licensure examinations which paved the wave for more opportunities.

In my career, I strive to be an excellent manager who looks out for the welfare of my staff members; I give my heart to my job. That doesn’t mean that I’ve never failed or made mistakes. But I always want to overcome the challenges and come out stronger, wiser and more determined to succeed and excel.

What made you decide on a career in nursing?

Honestly, I didn’t dream of becoming a nurse when I was young. There was a time I wanted to be a newscaster, a cashier or the lovely lady that wraps gifts inside the store! But life has a way of redirecting us to where we’re meant to be. When I finished high school, nursing was in demand in most first world countries and being a nurse seemed like the ticket to a better life for me and my family. However, I quickly learned that nursing is not for the faint of heart! It requires long hours of studying, work, commitment, fortitude, compassion, empathy, courage and patience.

My university life was a rollercoaster that included 2 courses, 4 universities and a time where I had to stop studying and work. Despite all the setbacks, I finally graduated and was able to start building my career in the Philippines. At the age of 24, I was given an opportunity to become a nurse manager and had the daunting task of leading a young team of more than 40 nurses and staff. This helped mould me into the nursing leader that I am today.

In 2014, I felt it was time to leave my comfort zone and so I moved to London! Being a nurse has been a humbling and fulfilling experience and I truly believe that healthcare would not be the same without nurses.

Describe a typical day in your life

As a nurse manager, I work 12 hours shifts three to four times a week. I try my best to wake up early to prepare my family’s breakfast and whatever else they might need that day. Then, I check my emails and calendar so that I’m up to speed with work updates. I make sure I eat breakfast as my mum always said it’s the most important meal of the day!

Working in a heart attack and arrhythmia centre, our days are highly dynamic and challenging. We start the shift with a handover and team huddle. Some days my work focuses on the management aspect of my role, other days I work clinically. I enjoy the challenges of my leadership role and representing women in the meeting room, but I really love working in the clinical areas and inside the lab, assisting with procedures. I also love meeting and taking care of patients, as well as teaching, supervising and supporting the wider team. There’s a real rush of adrenaline, excitement and a sense of fulfilment when you assist in life-saving treatments. It can be awe-inspiring to see a patient on the brink of death come back to life through the efforts of your team.

During my 10-minute walk home, I like to reflect on how the day went. I think about how we can improve so that our patients consistently receive safe, quality care, and our staff feel appreciated and supported. I try to manage my time and workload so that by 8pm I can go home and have time to bond, play with and take care of my kids, and be part of their night-time routine. I also spend my evenings connecting with my family and friends and watching my favourite vlogs! My weekends are dedicated to spending time with my family or with friends.

What is the most important thing in life for you?

When I was in my teens and early twenties, I used to think that academic and professional achievements were markers of success in life. I learned that, in our pursuit to be the best in whatever we do, other aspects of our life may take a backseat. I’m grateful that I didn’t rush; I took time to establish my career and feel fulfilled in my accomplishments.

The pandemic also highlighted what really matters in life - it’s not accolades, distinctions, our bank accounts or our material possessions. The most important thing in life is my family and closest friends. I am now more intentional in my decisions. Being a wife and a mum, I truly appreciate the value of my family and core support system. Motherhood has provided more purpose, meaning and balance to my life.

How has your style evolved?

I don’t have a particular fashion icon, but I do enjoy fashion and following trends. I’m always on-the-go, with work, errands or just running after my kids! As I’ve grown older and my life has evolved, I’ve learned that I prefer more neutral, classic designs that I can mix and match. I also value quality, preferring clothing that will last longer, is more sustainable and kinder to the planet. I enjoy thrift shopping and I hand down most of my clothes to my nieces and my twin’s clothes to my friends’ little ones. With spring arriving, I’d like to take my girls out to explore more and enjoy the sun - so I need clothes and footwear that provide style, functionality, movement and comfort!

“With spring arriving, I’d like to take my girls out to explore more - so I need clothes and footwear that provide style, functionality, movement and comfort!”