International Nurses Day: Meet some of the team at QA Hospital in Portsmouth and hear why they 'fell in love' with the job

THEY work long hours in extremely challenging conditions – but nurses at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth describe their jobs as ‘rewarding.’

Thursday, 12th May 2022, 4:55 am
Updated Thursday, 12th May 2022, 9:42 am

In line with International Nurses Day (May 12) they have opened up to The News about the highs and lows of their shifts, and why they ‘fell in love’ with the profession.

Neil Sesbreno – nurse in charge on the renal unit

Neil is a highly skilled nurse, originally from the Philippines, who has been on the renal unit since 2001.

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Neil Sesbreno who works at QA Hospital

He said: ‘It wasn't very easy at the beginning though, because I’ve been nursing for 32 years and back then there were very, very few men who joined the nursing field, it was a female-dominated world. Gaining the trust of the patients as a male nurse was not very easy either. It was quite challenging because every time I would start helping with a patient, they would point blank ask for a female nurse instead, and I needed to ask permission in order to help them.

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‘It took a while for the public to come round to male nurses and we are starting to increase our numbers in the hospital so it has become much easier. More and more male nurses are joining and there’s a good mixture now, the reaction from patients is so much better.

‘Prior to that I had done so many rotations in specialist areas like the emergency department, ITU, respiratory and surgical, but the day I started in renal I knew I had found where I wanted to be.

Caroline McCrea

‘This is a place where I can see the patient come in on day one feeling very unwell, with the family panicking a lot, and then we offer them the best that the medical profession can provide. We care for them up to transplantation, through to sending them home and being with their family. It is an amazing and scary journey for them, and I wanted to help them through it, it’s where I want to be. It's an amazing feeling when they are discharged – the joy of helping people in times when they're fighting for the lives, and comforting their family members, doing everything to get them through that stage.

‘That’s the thing that makes me look forward to going in. It’s really amazing, I have worked with some people at this hospital for 20 years, we were very young when we started!

‘I don't look at them as my colleagues, we’re a family. I always say to the new generation that if they don’t feel they belong to a family then we’ve done something wrong. They shouldn't be feeling alone or helpless, they’ve always got staff supporting them.’

Caroline McCrea – advanced critical care practitioner

Priyanka Abraham who works at QA Hospital

Advanced critical care practitioner Caroline has worked at Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust for nearly six years. Before she came to QA, she was a cardiothoracic nurse specialist in London. She comes from a family of medics including both parents and her identical twin sister is an anaesthetist registrar.

Caroline’s background is in nursing and she has been an advanced critical care practitioner at QA for nearly six years, but nursing wasn’t always her first choice.

She said: ‘Nursing actually wasn’t on my radar initially, I wanted to study medicine but I didn’t manage to get into medical school.

‘So I did my nursing degree at university and from the moment I went on my first placement I just fell in love. I loved meeting different patients and learning about various treatments.

Jonothon Coronel who works at QA Hospital

‘You always have something new to learn every day and it’s a job that you could never get bored of.’

Caroline noted how important the support from colleagues is in her role. ‘It’s invaluable,’ she said.

‘It makes every day much easier, it makes a hard day better and the hospital would not be a very happy place to work without your team. I think that has become even more apparent in the last two years. We would not have got through it without having our work family there for support.’

Caroline is one of the many PHU nurses to feature in the 10-part documentary series, Nurses on the Ward. The documentary airs on Thursdays at 8pm on W Channel.

Priyanka Abraham – research nurse specialist

Priyanka worked on E8 Ward at Queen Alexandra Hospital (QA) for three years before becoming a research nurse specialist in January 2022. Her role in respiratory research involves recruiting and meeting patients that are taking part in different trials.

Priyanka had never worked in research before but wanted a new challenge.

She said: ‘I had never considered a job in research but my colleague recommended the role to me. I had a look through the job description and it seemed like a really interesting opportunity. I was able to shadow someone in research to see what the job would involve and I felt I would fit in well.’

In research, Priyanka is able to study the long-term impacts of various trials, including how medications affect patients over time. She is able to work on quality improvement and is a vital part of ensuring that patients receive the best care possible.

‘Every day is different in research,’ Priyanka said. ‘It feels great to be part of something big and the quality of care we can give someone always makes me smile.’

She added: ‘It (the job) will challenge you and there is always space for development. You will have the opportunity to make real change.’

Jonathon Coronel – junior charge nurse on the renal unit

Jonathon has worked at QA Hospital for 21 years. He does a range of things in his role from coordinating patients and staff, assessing walk-in patients and looking after transplant patients.

He said: ‘I enjoy building relationships and trust with patients. If the trust isn’t there, it isn’t going to work.

‘Watching the patient journey and how our long-term patients improve over time is really rewarding.’

Are you interested in a career in nursing?

Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust is currently looking for new nurses (band 5) to come and join the team across a variety of areas.

To find out more and to register your interest visit

Liz Rix, chief nurse at PHU, said: ‘I have worked across the country leading nurses to provide the best possible care to patients. When I started at Portsmouth it was immediately apparent how strong the community is within and surrounding the hospital. And just how proud people are of Portsmouth and of PHU.’