Xue Min first arrived in Scotland carrying just a suitcase filled with 23kg of her belongings to start a new life.
She’d married Scottish man Paul Fitchie after falling in love with the engineer while he was working abroad in Singapore.
“It was scary starting over again,” the 36-year-old says. “You leave your family; you’re coming by yourself and the first few months were hard because I didn’t have a job.”
But before long the hospitality worker managed to get employment working in the catering department at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.
She started off as a catering assistant in the dining room of the hospital working on the tills and serving food.
On some days she worked in the kitchen, plating up meals for all the patients in hospital.
Then she came across a job ad for a healthcare support worker and applied knowing it could be a chance to progress.
Xue Min started working in the ophthalmology theatre at Raigmore Hospital in October last year helping surgeons as they carry out eye surgery.
She said: “When I joined catering, I knew I wanted to progress further within the NHS and knew there were many opportunities,” she says.
“I just wanted the change. There’s nothing wrong with catering, but there’s more scope to learn.”
On learning how to comfort patients…
Xue Min, who lives in Inverness, admits initially being apprehensive about starting her new role.
But it was not the surgery itself that she was worried about, it was helping the nervous patients coming in for operations.
Some of the patients were arriving in hospital for emergency treatment.
“I sometimes find it quite hard, not the job, but seeing the children and older people who are hurt,” she says. “You feel for them.
“The children can look so small on the bed.”
Young patients are usually operated on under general anaesthetic and may need comforted with their parent before the procedure as well as when they wake up.
But older patients can feel nervous too.
“I remember this lady came in, and she was nervous and suddenly there were tears, quietly and silently, and I held her hand to comfort her.
“She wasn’t upset, she was just nervous. You sit down with them, talk to them.”
‘At first I was scared to talk to patients’
Dealing with patients in a theatre environment was a new experience and it took her a while to get used to the role.
“At first I was quite scared to talk to the patients because I didn’t have that experience and I didn’t know what to do,” she says.
“You aren’t confident enough when you’re new – you don’t know what to say.
“But you get there over time. Now I’m not scared of the patients any more.
“I have definitely grown since starting but I know I still have a lot to learn.”
She helps the surgery team by making sure they have the right equipment to carry out procedures such as cataract surgery.
And she says she was keen to work for the NHS because there’s so many opportunities available to progress into different roles.
‘My aunt’s role as a nurse inspires me’
She recently lost her 69-year-old uncle Boon Lim due to cancer and was inspired by how her aunt Jee Lan, 63, a former nurse, looked after him.
“I could see how she’d care for my uncle,” she says. “Trying to get him to come for a walk, even learning to puree his food.
“Throughout all this she remained positive.
“I think she is a good person for me to learn from because she is a good example for me to follow for the future.”
The Inverness resident recently started working in the new national treatment centre in the city which has just been built to cut down waiting times.
Staff were recently transferred to the brand new building and it opened up to patients this week.
NHS Highland says the opening of the centre will have a “significantly positive impact” on waiting times.
Inverness NHS worker: ‘There’s always more you can do’
It’s been helpful for her working with a great team who are very knowledgeable about all the services they provide for patients.
“You can see that they don’t hold anything back and share their knowledge,” she says.
Her own career progression shows how staff willing to learn new skills can progress while working at the health board through moving into different departments.
“Health care is fun,” she says. “A lot of people think it is hard but there is a lot more to it, it’s satisfying and there are prospects in health care if you choose to pursue it.
“There’s always more you can do.
“For those considering a career within the NHS, don’t be scared to ask.
“Be yourself, ask questions and don’t limit yourself. I came from catering and now I’m in the theatres, don’t be scared of change and come to the Highlands.”