Job outlook for Filipino nurses no longer as bright




By PURPLE ROMERO
abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak



Days before the June 1 and 2 nursing board exams, 20-year-old Myla Bantog offered two eggs in St. Claire’s Parish in Quezon City to chalk up her chances of passing the test. She also prayed novenas in various parishes, one of which is the Lady of Manaoag Parish in Pangasinan, to seek spiritual guidance for the exams. She also sent and received good luck-text messages.



From the eggs to the prayers, these rites indicate the importance of the nursing profession to many Filipinos families. Around 65,000 nursing students are expected to take the exams on Sunday and Monday.




High costs

The stakes for taking up nursing are high. A nursing college education costs at least P300,000. But that’s not all. After finishing the four-year course, there are fees and other expenses for a series of qualifying exams.



Take the board exams today. Prior to taking these tests, nursing students spent around P10,000-P15,000 for review centers. Hundreds of pesos were shelled out for reviewer materials. They also paid a P900 exam fee.



And the expenses don’t stop after these exams.



Those who want to work in the United States, which is the dream destination for many nursing students, have to spend around P19,000-P25,000 to review for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), a standardized qualifying test.



But before they can take the NCLEX, they need to pass the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) and English proficiency tests, such as the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), to secure a CGFNS Certification Program Certificate.



Passing the CGFNS test is one of the requirements for an occupational visa in the US. Taking it means shelling out around $450 or around P19,000. In addition, the IELTS costs around P8,000.



Of course, there’s tuition to begin with, which ranges from P50,000 to P80,000 per semester.



The financial burden of a nursing education is inarguably big, but the fruits reaped from this profession are considered commensurate with the costs.



Nurses in the US with a one-year experience have a median salary of $50,000, or around P2 million. In Saudi Arabia, compensation for staff nurses ranges from $23,000 - $33,000, or around P1 million a year.



But these financial rewards will only be enjoyed if the nursing student becomes a practicing nurse.




Going down

So for those who have difficulty passing the nursing board exams, desperation often sets in.



“Magpakamatay na lang kaya ako (Maybe I should just kill myself),” said Flor (not her real name), a nursing graduate, who asked not to be named. She spoke with abs-cbnnews.com/Newsbreak last March, after she found out that she is no longer eligible to re-take tests III and V of the board exams for a third time.



Flor was one of those who took the controversial June 2006 board exams, where a leak took place. The Court of Appeals ordered the conditional retake of tests III and V, but the CGFNS put its foot down by insisting it would not issue VisaScreen certificates, required for entry to the US, for the June 2006 exam takers.



In December 2007, Flor took the tests for the second time but failed to pass. When abs-cbnnews.com/Newsbreak interviewed her in the Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC) last March, she was waiting in front of the office of PRC chair Leonora Rosero-Tripon. She was going to appeal to the chair to let her take the tests another time, even if it may mean revocation of her license.



“I am willing to give up my license. Just let me take the board exams again,” she said.



But even if she passes the tests, the data shows that her chances of landing a job in major job destinations are slim.



POEA data shows a decline in deployment of new hires. (See page 42 of POEA table). From a high of 13,822 deployed new hires in 2001, deployment decreased to 8,528 in 2006. Significant drops in deployment of new hires happened in the following receiving countries:



· Saudi Arabia: from 5, 626 in 2004 to 2,886 in 2006;

· United Kingdom: from 800 in 2004 to 139 in 2006;

· US: from 373 in 2004 to 133 in 2006;

· Kuwait: from 408 in 2004 to 191 in 2006;

· Qatar: from 318 in 2004 to 38 in 2006;



What then lies ahead for Filipino nurses?



In her study, “Producing the ‘World-Class’ Nurse: The Philippine System of Nursing and Education Supply,” Kristel Acacio, a doctoral candidate of the Department of Sociology in the University of California, said nursing graduates who can’t find a job abroad can go into three alternative fields: teaching, medical transcription, and call centers.



Acacio warned that if deployment of nurses continues to slow down, the Philippines will face a “great surge in unemployment as well as underemployment.”




Beyond nursing

Grace Abella, vice president of the Personnel Management Association of the Philippines told abs-cbnnews.com/Newsbreak in an earlier interview that students and parents should look beyond nursing and consider alternative courses such as accountancy, engineering and information technology (IT) courses.



“Companies here and abroad are always looking for accountants, engineers, IT experts. Students should take up courses related to such professions,” she said. Deployment of IT new hires has risen since 2004. (See table 26 of POEA table)



Another alternative is to take up science courses since many doctors and scientists have also left the country.



Dr. Manuel Francisco Roxas, chief of the Colorectal Surgery Division of UP-PGH, said the country badly needs scientists, agriculturists, and other professionals who can help improve Philippine competitiveness.



However, as long as the country does not pay its scientists well, Filipinos are expected to still gamble on nursing. Data from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) shows that nursing enrollees have gone up more than sixteen times since 1999, when only around 27,000 chose to take up nursing. In 2006, 453, 896 Filipinos enrolled in the nursing program.



Times have changed a great deal since the days of Florence Nightingale, the British nurse who committed her life to nursing because she wanted to serve the poor. For many Filipinos, nursing is now their best hope of becoming rich.

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