'Clare is where my heart is - but I can learn so much here in England'
When 24-year-old Carmel McGuane talks of home, her lips curve into a smile and her eyes dance. "I'm a total home bird and go home as often as I can," explains the qualified nurse from Cranny, in Co Clare.
Like so many other young Irish nurses, she's working in the NHS to improve her skills, to learn, to prosper and to take on new challenges.
"We're encouraged at every turn and get great support from our seniors. They want us to improve and become better nurses as much as we want that for ourselves," she explains.
Carmel trained in the Imperial College Trust in Charing Cross, West London, and completed her course last September.
Though she enjoyed her three years of training on the bustling Fulham Palace Road, the country girl in her yearned for calm, less noise and fields. And the love of home made her wonder which path she should follow now that she was qualified.
"I enjoyed living in London with the other girls - they're like my second family - but the whole big-city thing wasn't for me," she gently explains.
"I graduated in September and then went home to take stock. The following month I got an email to say that the Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital were holding interviews in Dublin so I went up for a look. I knew it was more countrified out there, less hectic. When I discovered that nine other girls from Ireland had been recruited I decided to take the job offer."
Initially, Carmel worked in the isolation ward caring for seriously ill patients and she wondered if she'd made a mistake leaving Clare and returning across the Irish Sea.
"It was a very quiet ward, obviously, by the nature of the patients' conditions and I didn't enjoy it. I didn't feel it was for me, felt I wasn't contributing. I told my medical lead that I was thinking of moving back to Ireland," says Carmel.
"But she took to me to one side, was so kind, and asked in what area I'd like to work instead. I was moved to a respiratory ward, which was exactly where I wanted to me. I don't know if I would have received that kind of understanding had I similar concerns in an Irish hospital."
Indeed the entire recruitment process clearly illustrated to Carmel just how sought-after Irish nurses are here.
"It was amazing. They paid my first month's rent, which was £480 (€676), and also for my initial flights to England. On the day I arrived in my accommodation there was a bag of shopping there for me. They really made me feel so welcome."
A keen Gaelic footballer, Carmel does miss the sport she grew up with - though she was in Ruislip last weekend when London faced Roscommon in the Connacht Football Championship.
"Of course there are things I miss about home, especially my family, friends and local area, but I'm here to become the best nurse I can be. Someday I do want to go home but I want to soak up every last experience here and make use of the opportunities the NHS provides. I don't feel the same chances exist in Ireland for a young nurse like me so I'll stay put for a while yet. That doesn't stop my aunt texting me frequently though to tell me they're looking for nurses in the regional hospital in Limerick!"