Special program for board exam repeaters pushed

Dismayed at the result of the November nursing board examination, an official of a nursing association proposed Wednesday for a special program that will address the concerns of repeaters and avoid waste of resources of the graduates and their parents.

Only 39.73 percent or 37, 527 of the 94, 462 examinees passed the nursing board administered by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) in November last year. Of the total board passers, almost 50 percent were first timers while only 26 percent were repeaters.

Dr. Fely Marilyn Lorenzo of the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) and head of the University of the Philippines’ Institute of Health Policy and Development Studies said the result indicates two things: the quality of nursing education is not really improving, although not deteriorating; and that repeaters are bringing down the average.

“Although the November result is the lowest so far, it’s not really bad for the first timers. But the implication was different because we have a big drop in percentage that was being dragged by the repeaters,’’ she said in an interview.

“The repeaters should be given special programs by their schools to determine what it is they have difficulty in taking the test. Sometimes it is not a lack of knowledge, sometimes its ‘testmanship’ – they are not taught how to take the exam,’’ explained Lorenzo, adding she is not endorsing the review centers.

She said that many of the repeaters may have not been exposed to actual training or patient’s care so that the critical thinking that was being tested by the exams were not brought to fore.

The proliferation of nursing schools (now at 460 nationwide), lack of training hospitals and lack of related learning experience, among others contributed to the graduates’ failure in the exam, she added.

Lorenzo, a former chair of the Technical Committee in Nursing Education said that the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) should take a second look at quality of schools that are churning out this high rate of repeaters and make all schools responsible for their graduates and mandate them to provide enabling programs for repeaters.

“As part of regulatory mandate of CHED, they have to come up with development programs for this, and/or partner with the labor department because the fruits of education should be employable labor. If the education system is not coming out with employable labor, then we will be short of supply of employable people.”
She admitted that although there is a surplus of nurses in the country, there is as well a shortage in skilled nurses.

Lorenzo said it is high time that the schools are now obliged to analyze and address the problems of their graduates by providing tools to help them pass in the board.

More importantly, she said the CHEd should also start closing down some schools especially those not performing well.

“Unless significant changes are made in the way the schools are operated, it will continue to be like this and resources will always be wasted. Basic here is to close some schools because the training hospitals are not enough to teach them,” the expert said.

Moreover, Lorenzo bewailed the schools and even society for consistently believing that nursing is merely an investment.

“The nursing profession is unhappy that up to now society sees nursing as a business. They are not realizing the effects of all this,” said Lorenzo.

With an estimated investment for nursing education at P40,000 a semester for school fees alone or half a million in total, she said it is a waste of resources for parents to send a daughter/ son to school without having to reap the fruits of their labor.

Nursing board topnotcher: I only wanted to pass

By Sophia Dedace
For 28-year-old nursing graduate Clarie Bontol, topping the board exams is a fantasy.
A text message from a friend late Sunday night, however, convinced the Iligan City native that fantasies can come true. The texter had informed her that she was the topnotcher in the November 2009 licensure examinations for nurses.

“At first I could not believe it. It was very unexpected because I just studied by myself and the test was very difficult. My only prayer was for me to pass,” she said.

Bontol studied Biology at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, but had a change of heart somewhere along the way. “I realized that I no longer wanted to be a doctor and I did not like what I was doing,” she said.

She then enrolled at the Philippine Institute of Japanese Language in Culture in Sampaloc, Manila, where she graduated valedictorian in 2004. Her quest for knowledge, however, did not stop there.


A year later, inspired by a cousin’s success, she returned to her home province and took up nursing at the Iligan Medical Center College, Inc. She graduated March 2009. “I just wanted to follow my cousin’s footsteps. It was she who inspired me to be a nurse.”

Bontol, who got an 87.80 percent rating, will be one of the 37, 572 board passers who will take oath as registered nurses this March.

Asked whether she is planning to work abroad like many of her ilk, Bontol said she has yet to decide.
“It’s still something my family and I will still discuss. But as of now, I have no plans yet. Hindi ko pa alam kung gusto ko magtrabaho overseas o dito na lang muna sa Pilipinas (I haven’t figured out yet whether or not to work abroad),” she said.

From the provinces

Bontol was not the only one in the top 5 passers who came from provincial schools. Bryan Noel Asis (2nd) and Dickson Laude (3rd) were from the Lyceum of Batangas and St. Scholastica’s College of Health Sciences-Tacloban, Leyte, respectively.

Fourth placer Sarah Beth Bendoy graduated from the First Asia Institute of Technology and Humanities in Batangas. Sharing the spot with her was Cyrel Diolazo of Arellano University-Manila.

Of the three Nursing graduates who ranked fifth, two were from the provinces: Katrina Doromal of St. Paul University-Iloilo, and Rio Michelle Renomeron of San Pedro College-Davao City. The other fifth placer is Cliff Richard Bermudez from the Pamantasan ng Lunsod ng Maynila.

Two of the three best performing schools in 2009 were also in the province: St. Paul University-Iloilo registered a 100 percent passing mark; St. Louis University in Baguio with 99.54 percent; and Pamantasan ng Lunsod ng Maynila with 98.48.

In 2008, schools outside Metro Manila also performed well.
Nicolas Lapeña, chair of the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), said the impressive performance of the provincial nursing schools was due to the efforts exerted by the commission and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

“Pinupukpok talaga ng PRC at ng CHED ang mga provincial nursing schools to improve their standards, na kung pwedeng i-match din nila yung sa Metro Manila,” Lapeña said. 
(We, together with CHED, really pushed these schools to perform better and, if possible, to match the performance of their counterparts in Metro Manila.)

A total of 94,462 nursing graduates took the November 2009 examinations, a six percent jump from the 88,649 who took the exams in 2008.

The passing rate for 2009, however, was the lowest, as only 39.73 percent (37,527 examinees) passed the test.

Lapeña declined to say if this is reflective of the proliferation of poorly-performing nursing schools despite the 2004 CHED moratorium against the opening of more nursing schools.

Henrietta Lacks’ ‘Immortal’ Cells


Henrietta Lacks' cells were essential in developing the polio vaccine and were used in scientific landmarks such as cloning, gene mapping and in vitro fertilization.Medical researchers use laboratory-grown human cells to learn the intricacies of how cells work and test theories about the causes and treatment of diseases. The cell lines they need are “immortal”—they can grow indefinitely, be frozen for decades, divided into different batches and shared among scientists. In 1951, a scientist at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, created the first immortal human cell line with a tissue sample taken from a young black woman with cervical cancer. Those cells, called HeLa cells, quickly became invaluable to medical research—though their donor remained a mystery for decades. In her new book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, journalist Rebecca Skloot tracks down the story of the source of the amazing HeLa cells, Henrietta Lacks, and documents the cell line's impact on both modern medicine and the Lacks family.
Who was Henrietta Lacks?
She was a black tobacco farmer from southern Virginia who got cervical cancer when she was 30. A doctor at Johns Hopkins took a piece of her tumor without telling her and sent it down the hall to scientists there who had been trying to grow tissues in culture for decades without success. No one knows why, but her cells never died.
Why are her cells so important?
Henrietta’s cells were the first immortal human cells ever grown in culture. They were essential to developing the polio vaccine. They went up in the first space missions to see what would happen to cells in zero gravity. Many scientific landmarks since then have used her cells, including cloning, gene mapping and in vitro fertilization.
There has been a lot of confusion over the years about the source of HeLa cells. Why?
When the cells were taken, they were given the code name HeLa, for the first two letters in Henrietta and Lacks. Today, anonymizing samples is a very important part of doing research on cells. But that wasn’t something doctors worried about much in the 1950s, so they weren’t terribly careful about her identity. When some members of the press got close to finding Henrietta’s family, the researcher who’d grown the cells made up a pseudonym—Helen Lane—to throw the media off track. Other pseudonyms, like Helen Larsen, eventually showed up, too. Her real name didn’t really leak out into the world until the 1970s.
How did you first get interested in this story?
I first learned about Henrietta in 1988. I was 16 and a student in a community college biology class. Everybody learns about these cells in basic biology, but what was unique about my situation was that my teacher actually knew Henrietta’s real name and that she was black. But that’s all he knew. The moment I heard about her, I became obsessed: Did she have any kids? What do they think about part of their mother being alive all these years after she died? Years later, when I started being interested in writing, one of the first stories I imagined myself writing was hers. But it wasn’t until I went to grad school that I thought about trying to track down her family.
How did you win the trust of Henrietta’s family?
Part of it was that I just wouldn’t go away and was determined to tell the story. It took almost a year even to convince Henrietta’s daughter, Deborah, to talk to me. I knew she was desperate to learn about her mother. So when I started doing my own research, I’d tell her everything I found. I went down to Clover, Virginia, where Henrietta was raised, and tracked down her cousins, then called Deborah and left these stories about Henrietta on her voice mail. Because part of what I was trying to convey to her was I wasn’t hiding anything, that we could learn about her mother together. After a year, finally she said, fine, let’s do this thing.
When did her family find out about Henrietta’s cells?
Twenty-five years after Henrietta died, a scientist discovered that many cell cultures thought to be from other tissue types, including breast and prostate cells, were in fact HeLa cells. It turned out that HeLa cells could float on dust particles in the air and travel on unwashed hands and contaminate other cultures. It became an enormous controversy. In the midst of that, one group of scientists tracked down Henrietta’s relatives to take some samples with hopes that they could use the family’s DNA to make a map of Henrietta’s genes so they could tell which cell cultures were HeLa and which weren’t, to begin straightening out the contamination problem.
So a postdoc called Henrietta’s husband one day. But he had a third-grade education and didn’t even know what a cell was. The way he understood the phone call was: “We’ve got your wife. She’s alive in a laboratory. We’ve been doing research on her for the last 25 years. And now we have to test your kids to see if they have cancer.” Which wasn’t what the researcher said at all. The scientists didn’t know that the family didn’t understand. From that point on, though, the family got sucked into this world of research they didn’t understand, and the cells, in a sense, took over their lives.
How did they do that?
This was most true for Henrietta’s daughter. Deborah never knew her mother; she was an infant when Henrietta died. She had always wanted to know who her mother was but no one ever talked about Henrietta. So when Deborah found out that this part of her mother was still alive she became desperate to understand what that meant: Did it hurt her mother when scientists injected her cells with viruses and toxins? Had scientists cloned her mother? And could those cells help scientists tell her about her mother, like what her favorite color was and if she liked to dance.
Deborah’s brothers, though, didn’t think much about the cells until they found out there was money involved. HeLa cells were the first human biological materials ever bought and sold, which helped launch a multi-billion-dollar industry. When Deborah’s brothers found out that people were selling vials of their mother’s cells, and that the family didn’t get any of the resulting money, they got very angry. Henrietta’s family has lived in poverty most of their lives, and many of them can’t afford health insurance. One of her sons was homeless and living on the streets of Baltimore. So the family launched a campaign to get some of what they felt they were owed financially. It consumed their lives in that way.
What are the lessons from this book?
For scientists, one of the lessons is that there are human beings behind every biological sample used in the laboratory. So much of science today revolves around using human biological tissue of some kind. For scientists, cells are often just like tubes or fruit flies—they’re just inanimate tools that are always there in the lab. The people behind those samples often have their own thoughts and feelings about what should happen to their tissues, but they’re usually left out of the equation.
And for the rest of us?
The story of HeLa cells and what happened with Henrietta has often been held up as an example of a racist white scientist doing something malicious to a black woman. But that’s not accurate. The real story is much more subtle and complicated. What is very true about science is that there are human beings behind it and sometimes even with the best of intentions things go wrong.
One of the things I don’t want people to take from the story is the idea that tissue culture is bad. So much of medicine today depends on tissue culture. HIV tests, many basic drugs, all of our vaccines—we would have none of that if it wasn’t for scientists collecting cells from people and growing them. And the need for these cells is going to get greater, not less. Instead of saying we don’t want that to happen, we just need to look at how it can happen in a way that everyone is OK with.

NLE November 2009 Result

Manila, Philippines - A total of 37,527 out of 94,462 (39.73%) passed the November 2009 NURSING BOARD EXAM.The examination was given by the Board of Nursing in the cities of Manila, Baguio, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, La Union, Legazpi, Lucena, Pagadian, Pampanga, Sulu, Tacloban, Tuguegarao and Zamboanga last November 2009.

The oathtaking ceremony of the successful examinees in the said examination in Manila as well as the previous ones who have not taken their Oath of Professional will be held before the Board on Monday and Tuesday, March 8 and 9, 2010, with morning (8:00 A.M.) and afternoon (1:00 P.M.) sessions at the SMX Convention Center, SM Mall of Asia, Pasay City. All must come in their white gala uniform, nurse’s cap, white duty shoes, without earrings, hair not touching the collar and without corsage.

The Professional Regulation Commission reminded those who will register are required to bring the following:

  • duly accomplished Oath Form or Panunumpa ng Propesyonal,
  • current Community Tax Certificate (cedula),
  • 2 pieces passport size picture (colored with white background and complete name tag),
  • 1 piece 1” x 1” picture (colored with white background and complete name tag),
  • 2 sets of metered documentary stamps, and 1 short brown envelope with name and profession;
  • and to pay the Initial Registration Fee of P600 and Annual Registration Fee of P450 for 2010-2013. Successful examinees should personally register and sign in the Roster of Registered Professionals.
Oathtaking tickets for the National Capital Region (NCR) and nearby regions will be available at the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) at 1663 F.T. Benitez Street, Malate, Manila, starting Monday, February 8, 2010 on a “first come first serve” basis.

Roll of Successful Examinees in the NURSE LICENSURE EXAMINATION
Held on NOVEMBER 29 & 30, 2009 Released on JANUARY 30, 2010


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