Filipino nurses find life sweet in rural RHAs












Joan Duhaylungsod (front) and other nursing recruits from the Philippines attend a ceremony at the Manitoba legislature on Thursday.

Joan Duhaylungsod has had to make a lot of adjustments since leaving the Philippines seven months ago for a nursing job in Pilot Mound.


She left family and friends and a tropical climate in a Third World country for a sparsely populated -- and much colder -- country halfway around the world.

While toiling in a long-term care facility in rural Manitoba, she's also had to spend months studying for an exam that would allow her to work as a registered nurse in the province -- a test she passed in October.

On Thursday, she and two dozen other Filipino nurses attended a ceremony at the Legislative Building marking the success of a government nursing recruitment program that has eased the staffing burden on rural health care facilities.

More than 120 Filipino nurses have arrived in Manitoba this year, already exceeding the government target of 100. And 102 of them have already passed their Canadian registered nurse exam. The others, more recent arrivals, will write their exams in February.

"We are really very lucky and we are really very blessed for having this opportunity," Duhaylungsod said, speaking for her colleagues.

Health Minister Theresa Oswald said the province has added more than 2,000 nursing positions over the last decade, but it still needs more. That's especially true of rural areas, where the new recruits are working.

"These nurses who have travelled from the other side of the world to work here in Manitoba are making a real difference to families and to patients in over 20 communities," Oswald said. She said their presence has not only eased staffing pressures, but provided the communities with a morale boost.

Jason Marchand, an executive with the Brandon Regional Health Authority, said 20 Filipino nurses his region has been allotted have kept beds open, spurred training programs and given staff an opportunity to take a vacation. Brandon is one of four rural RHAs that have received Filipino nurses.

The Philippines trains many more nurses than it needs each year, and thousands have emigrated around the world to find jobs.

Duhaylungsod, 23, has been a nurse for three years. She, like many of the others who have recently arrived in Manitoba, will be sending money home to help out family members.

"There are so many people there who cannot even buy Tylenol. And here (health care) is free," she said Thursday.

Duhaylungsod said she's been warmly accepted in Pilot Mound and experienced no discrimination at work. She is one of two recruits who have found jobs in the town.

"My adjustment was a little bit easier because of the people. They're just so nice," she said of the south-central Manitoba community.

Adjusting to the weather has been more of a challenge, though. "When I say cold, it's just an understatement," she joked.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

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