The Australian Filipina is proud to feature another frontliner who comes from FiND (Filipino Nursing Diaspora Network), which has been doing great work in providing valuable information, support and empowerment of Filipino nurses around the globe. It is our pride to put the spotlight on Mr Dion Candelaria who has many years of dedicated service as a nurse and researcher, and is in the final stage of completing his doctorate degree.
It is great to collaborate with Jerome Babate, FiND Executive Director and the Radio Tagumpay team in highlighting kababayans in the nursing and in other professions as well as areas of passion whose achievements and inspiring stories reflect well on the Fil-Aus community. If you know of anyone we can also feature, please let us know.
We are glad to share Dion’s Q&A interview to gain an insight into his persona and his journey to reach where he is at now.
Please share a bit of information about you.
I was born and raised in Angeles City, Pampanga so I can speak Filipino and Kapmpangan. My dad is from Angeles too and mom is from Pangasinan. I am an only child so I was very close to my cousins growing up. Looking back, maybe me being an only child is the reason why I value friendship so much, because my friends became my siblings.
I studied elementary and high school in Holy Family Academy in Angeles City. It is a Catholic school run by the Benedictine sisters, sister school of St Scholastica’s. I can say that I am who I am today partly because of the good education I received during my formative years.
I studied Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Angeles University Foundation Cum Laude. I worked for three years as a Registered Nurse. I then went on to pursue my Master of Arts in Nursing degree Major in Advanced Medical-Surgical Nursing at University of Santo Tomas (UST), which I did not get to finish because I had to move to Australia.
You can say that I like studying. But I guess more than that, I enjoy the process of learning. I am a naturally curious person. I am also very social. I love being around people and socialising, catching up over coffee or a nice meal or drinks.
What made you decide to come to Australia and what was the process of you migrating to Australia?
Moving to Australia was more serendipitous. I did not know anyone in here before I moved. Many of my extended family who are abroad live in the US, which I think is typical. My nursing friends are spread all over the UK and the Middle East. Plus, I was determined to finish my Master’s at the time and enjoying Graduate School life so I wasn’t actively applying to go elsewhere. But the stars aligned I suppose, and that I am meant to be here. This year is my 10th year in Australia, I arrived here in 2012, as a young 23 year-old dreamer. Time just flew by! And I can say this is the best 10 years of my life.
So the story of moving here started when my friends in UST were having dinner and ‘whinging’ about the nursing situation in the Philippines at the time. From 2008-2011, there were so many nursing graduates so the surplus meant that the hospitals could easily exploit them through unfair volunteer practices. I was fortunate enough that I did not have to go through that. One of my friends gave me a number to contact ‘in case’ I am interested to move to Australia. I was sceptical at first, understandably so, because of known scams and sham agencies. And also, if it were real, I would not have the resources to fund myself. A month or so later, I tried calling the number ‘just to check it out’. I was invited for an orientation and the rest was history, as they say.
There was only one catch in the whole process, actually two: 1. That the money used to organise the bridging program needed to convert my RN registration to Australia ($12,000 at the time) and the pocket money will be loaned to us. Fair enough, although the interest was huge. 2. The assistance was to enrol in the program, looking and finding a job afterwards is up to us. Pressure.
What would you consider to be the best parts and achievements of coming to Australia?
The best part of moving to Australia is having the opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. And because of my experiences, I was more driven and motivated to maximise these opportunities, not only in terms of career progression but also in life more broadly.
I feel that I have achieved so much, but these achievements also make me grounded and humble. My career has taken off and is on track, I was able to bring my parents over, I found new friends who became my family here in Australia. I cannot complain.
It wasn’t all easy, but definitely worth it.
On the flip side, what difficulties and challenges did you face and overcome?
My story is a classic migrant story—leaving home full of dreams and embarking in a journey with no guarantees or assurance of success. But I was determined. And this determination pushed me forward.
There were lots of struggles and challenges, of course, especially in the beginning. Starting in a new environment is always the hardest, I suppose. Learning to navigate the systems here, having a fixed budget, and of course, and the all-too-common converting everything to Philippine Peso!
I was lucky to have other people who shared the journey with me, and the experience of starting in a new country tied us together.
What positions you have held in Australia and brief description of what they entail?
After the two-month Bridging Program, I was hired as a Cardiothoracic Registered Nurse at the Sydney Adventist Hospital (the San) in 2012. A couple of years later in 2014, I was promoted to a Specialist Nurse where part of the role is to provide some education to staff and students on clinical placement. I really enjoyed that part and I think my colleagues appreciated my teaching too. In 2015, I started facilitating nursing students on placement for University of Technology Sydney while still maintaining clinical practice. Then in 2017, I held a full-time Associate Lecturer position at The University of Sydney where I taught nursing students in lectures, tutorials and laboratory simulations. I am a passionate educator and I really enjoyed this role too.
I started my PhD at The University of Sydney in 2018 and now am on track to finishing on the second half of the year.
It has been quite a ride.
Please tell us about your Doctor of Philosophy studies - the main topisc; how long it going to take to finish; its aims and the extent of its coverage. Where can the readers avail of the paper?
My research looks at quality of life in patients who had a heart attack and the effect of cardiac rehabilitation. Cardiac rehab is a 6-8 week exercise and education program to reduce the risk of having another heart attack, but also to return to previous functioning.
I aimed to identify patient groups that do not improve as much in terms of quality of life, so that we can initiate additional strategies to make sure they are not missing out on the benefits of cardiac rehab.
With COVID, we also had to adapt to the changes so as they rolled out telehealth-delivered rehabilitation program (because face-to-face was suspended during the lockdown period), I also tested whether there are differences in patient outcome from face-to-face versus telehealth. And we found that there are no differences, in fact more mental health improvements with telehealth, meaning this is a potential addition to existing services we could offer to people that can be done at home.
I have published nine papers so far and four will be included in my thesis.
For more information about my research, you can follow me on Twitter, my social media of choice for academic stuff: @DionCadelaria_
What advice would you give kababayans who maybe having difficulties in settling in their new home country or in their studies? Also for those who might have the desire to be in similar positions as you but maybe hesitating.
To those who are having difficulty settling in their new home country or in their studies, I would advise to reach out to others who perhaps share the experience. I am sure there are Filipino communities all over Sydney or Australia, and people are usually helpful tot hose who reach out. To those struggling to find motivation, always remember the reason why you started in the first place. It is always difficult at the start, but don’t give up and keep going, it will be easier in the end.
To those aspiring to be successful in their careers, my advice is to be bold and open-minded. Take as much opportunity that come your way. Sometimes, hardwork isn’t enough, you also have to be strategic. I am very open to being a mentor for other pinoy nurses who are ambitious and talented. Email me at: email@example.com for more career advice.
Lastly, how do you define success?
I’ll keep it short. Success or tagumpay, for me, is very much linked to happiness. And happiness comes from contentment. No matter how much achievement you have in the eyes of the society or other people, if you are not truly happy with what you do, or are not content with what you have, then that is not success.
All the best Dion! It is not long now before we all address you as Dr Dion Candelaria!!