Philippine Nurses NOWHERE TO TRAIN ?

Monday, November 2, 2009

The growing demand for nurses the past few years encouraged thousands of high school graduates and even professionals, even the so-called second coursers to go back to school, earn a nursing degree, with the hopes of getting a job overseas.

Recently, however, the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) reported that around 400,000 licensed nurses could not find employment locally as there are only around 60,000 nursing jobs available in the country.

PRC commissioner Ruth Padilla curiously was quoted in a report that the hundreds of thousands of nurses seeking local employment should not lose hope because there continues to be an overwhelming demand for Filipino nurses in North America, Middle East and emerging markets in Europe.

Message of false hopes

I think the good commissioner is missing a major point in the issue, and is sending a dangerous message to thousands of nursing hopefuls currently enrolled or about to enroll in nursing schools.
Yes, there is a great demand for Filipino nurses overseas. Other than the USA and Middle East, even Norway, Belgium and Austria are even starting to open doors to local nurses.

A crucial factor Padilla left out or failed to clarify is that nurses being sought after by such countries are those armed with a significant number of years of hospital and clinical experience.
In contrast, majority, if not all of the 400,000 jobless nurses mentioned by the PRC are those who belong to the recent batches of licensure examination passers who are armed with nursing license and – nothing else! This is like training soldiers and sending them to battle without guns.

Padilla is saying that negotiations are underway with various foreign governments to facilitate the hiring of Filipino nurses. But it’s going to be a long shot to expect these overseas hospitals to agree to get our newly licensed and inexperienced nurses.

Let’s not give our aspiring OFWs false hopes.

Nowhere to go

In fact, several years of hospital experience alone isn’t good enough for foreign employers. Many if not all require a nurse to have earned her clinical experience in modern, tertiary hospitals. In Metro Manila, we only have a handful of modern tertiary hospitals. And the situation is worse in the provinces.

No wonder that there are nursing students who passed the licensure examinations administered last December 2006, but have yet to get a single call from the 20 or so hospitals in Metro Manila where they sent their CVs. As expected, those who passed the licensure exam a year later have found themselves in the same boat.

Many hospitals are now on a freeze hiring status. Only one modern tertiary hospital is being built in the metropolis – St. Luke’s Medical Center’s Bonifacio Global City site in Taguig – and the applications from graduates for a chance to work there when it opens is already mountain-high.

Not even for free
An innovative way employed before by rookie nurses in a bid to earn actual clinical experience was to apply as volunteer nurses. The ploy apparently was picked up by succeeding batches of newly-licensed nurses which resulted in a backlog even in the application for volunteer nurses.
Some newly licensed nurses lamented that even government hospitals are no longer interested in accepting volunteer nurses due to lack of qualified nurse-instructors and supervisors to look after the trainees and volunteers. Woe! Even for free, thousands of nurses cannot get their hands wet with actual hospital work.

To the more financially equipped, enrolling in two- or three-month competency enhancement training programs for a fee is an option and several hundreds are also willing to shell out extra money after graduation to get the needed skills training. All in the hope of getting the chance to be employed abroad.

Where to untrained nurses?
We have a situation here where thousands are lured to the nursing profession because of the prospect to work abroad. To meet this growing demand, nursing schools are increasing in number like mushrooms and are producing thousands of graduates. Yet, there are not enough facilities and hospitals to take in these graduates for training and experience.

In their desire to complete the course and obtain the necessary license, some of these aspiring nursing students also become easy prey to dubious nursing schools and review centers.
Imagine all the expenses that parents go through to keep a son or daughter through a nursing course, only to see them taking menial jobs outside the course they invested in. Or worse, not have a job at all.

What now, CHED?
As early as 2004, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), in a bid to address the oversupply of nurses and ensure the superior quality of nursing graduates produced, warned that it will start closing down schools with sub-par performances in board examinations, poor facilities and sub-standard related learning experience tie-ups with healthcare facilities.

To this day, nothing has come out of that threat. All we have seen is a procession of executives appointed to the position, with nothing much accomplished.
How about it, new CHED chairman Emmanuel Angeles?
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