Growing number of Philippine nursing students

Monday, November 2, 2009

THE Philippines’ nursing course has become suspect among countries known to have provided employment to Filipino nursing professionals. The sheer number of nursing students, growing from 30,000 in 2004 to 450,000 this year, seems too much. Countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand doubt the qualifications and the quality of the training programs in place.

In New Zealand, for instance, its Nursing Council has made it impossible for second coursers-–doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc.--to get approval for their applications. The excuse is that it cannot accept nurses who have obtained their degrees for less than four years.

In the past years, all that was required was for applicants to have a diploma, enough working experience and high mark in the English examination. If approved, the applicant then takes a six-week bridging course as pre-requisite to obtaining a certificate to work in New Zealand hospitals.

Most Kiwis who have been attended to by Filipino nurses testify as to the latter’s industry and proficiency. “They treat so well, like I am family,” Lloyd, a Pakeha, told me during our practice in the North Shore Male Choir, where I was once a member.

Geoff Annals, chief executive of the New Zealand Nurses Organization, wants the issue resolved, "anxious that it isn't seen as a problem with [Filipino] nurses, because there are many excellent nurses that are working in New Zealand who are from the Philippines."

Filipinos have the innate qualities required of nurses. Due to their close ties with their families, Filipino nurses tend to be close to patients unlike other ethnicities who take the nursing profession like an 8 to 5 job. Filipino nurses give respect to patients, especially the elderly, treating them like their parents. They are willing to take extra time and work, if required. Then there’s the ease with which they speak in English, their sense of humor and their strong faith in God.

Chief executive Carolyn Reed of the NZ Nursing Council said: "We do have concerns about the effect that such rapid growth has on program quality. The proliferation of programs and the proliferation of providers in the Philippines have meant that we have had considerable difficulty assessing the adequacy of the theory and practice content of the programs of the nurses applying (to work in New Zealand), in order to establish that they have met educational equivalence."

The concerns of host countries are valid, as not only has there been proliferation of nursing schools in the Philippines and in all types of educational institutions but the licensing examinations are also known for leakages.
Education officials are inutile in regulating the offering of nursing courses and failed to provide safeguards on fly-by-night schools and in setting up pre-qualifications for students wanting to pursue the degree.

The mass production of nurses is finally catching up with us. With too many nurses in the country, not many hospitals can give them the necessary experience as required by other countries. They are subjected to exploitation by hospitals and other health care institutions, like giving them low pay or tying them up to considerable number of years getting certificate of job experience. Some graduates, as well as licensed nurses, cannot therefore find work in health related fields, ending up as call center operators or medical representatives, among others.

There is need for government to intervene as soon as possible. Otherwise, we will end up with many wasted professionals who are underemployed or unemployed burdens instead of dollar earners.

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