Dr Robert Prihajo is a lecturer on our Adult Nursing course in Peterborough, with a special interest in diabetes and long-term health conditions. In this blog, he shares the evolution of his career and what nursing means to him.
Nursing has always been part of my life. I grew up in a family where we used to move from one town to another in Central Java. As a clinician, my father had a strong dedication to work for the government and led health centres in different parts of the country.
During his ‘out of hours’, my father worked for our family-run clinics. All the family were involved including my mother, who was not health trained, but knew all the names of different tablets. We had patients come to the clinic with different conditions such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, asthma, malaria and also (sorry to say) the local prostitutes who came for their penicillin injections.
I remember, during a rainy season, my father was called to an area which was heavily flooded. We travelled by a wooden boat in order to get there. As a child, I did not enjoy seeing the patients, but riding in the boat was great fun!
My father always wanted me to study medicine or nursing, but it was not what I wanted to learn at the time. Instead, I started to study English – but during the induction week, I was called out by my father who wanted me to apply to a nursing course which was just being started in one of the polytechnics. I attended the selection test, consisting of maths, biology, chemistry, physics and English (no nursing elements at all) and surprisingly, I was successful. I had competed with over 1,700 candidates and was granted one of the ten places available for male students.
I completed the course and was, once again surprisingly, one of the best students. Following my training, I successfully gained a position as a junior lecturer at the same school, but for the first three years, I worked half of the time in the local hospital to get clinical experience.
Gradually, I observed that nursing was something I could make into a career. I worked for the nursing polytechnic in Yogyakarta for many years as well as Gadjah Mada University, before I moved to the UK.
Travelling and seeing people in different countries is always something I have liked to do. My first international nursing experience was when I travelled to Ontario, Canada, to do a course focusing on medical surgical nursing, with a scholarship from the World Bank and the Indonesian government. During my time there, I also had an opportunity to work with nurses in the local hospital. In my free time, I voluntarily performed Indonesian arts/dances at local events or at the Indonesian Embassy in Toronto.
My clinical interest has always been about adult nursing, particularly caring for long-term conditions, including diabetes. Before working with Anglia Ruskin University, I worked as a nurse at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust for a few years. To start with, it was not an easy journey. Being qualified from outside of the UK/EU, I needed to complete the return to practice course first, then the overseas nurses programme. Initially I found nursing in the UK was rather complex
To me, nursing is also about learning and developing yourself. I feel that I never stopped studying. I started my top-up degree at the University of Indonesia in 1993; it was a very challenging three-year full-time course, but it was worth doing it. The first year was the most difficult time. I felt that as a nursing student, I needed to show other students from the medical and dentistry schools that we are also capable of mastering biology, medical physics, physiology, biochemistry and pathology anatomy subjects from our shared learning.
After my top-up in Indonesia, I went to Manchester to study and obtained my MSc in Nursing in 1998. Finally, I obtained my PhD from Anglia Ruskin University.
My research is about diabetes consultation. It's great that I managed to disseminate the findings many times: to the Diabetes UK conferences, and also to the Psychosocial Aspects of Diabetes – European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) when they had their annual meetings in Slovenia, Croatia and the Netherlands. Apart from this research, I still love to share good practice in diabetes care with students and other colleagues including institutions in Europe and Indonesia.
Nursing is not only about giving an intramuscular injection, it is more than any technical aspects we learn. Nursing has shaped me into the person I am today; it underpins the way I work with people from different cultures and backgrounds and more importantly, connect to the world.