R.P. training nurses in Japanese / Caregivers sent to Japan under EPA get hand to overcome language hurdle

MANILA--The Philippine government has begun language classes to help nurses wanting to go and work in Japan overcome the high language barrier, and even pays them to enroll.
The project is aimed at boosting the rate of Philippine applicants who pass Japan's national nursing examination and increasing the number of nurses seeking a career in Japan under the economic partnership agreement (EPA) between the two countries.
During one recent Japanese class, a teacher held up a panel with kanji for difficult words, such as "roasha" (the hearing impaired) and "nenza" (sprain), while the students read the words aloud in unison.
The Philippines' Technical Education and Skills Development Authority conducted a four-month Japanese course on a trial basis, ending in early September. Most participants studied while working at hospitals. During their language training, they acquired basic Japanese conversational skills, and learned medical terms and about Japan's workplace culture.
Participant Ana Melissa Cana said she received a job offer from a Japanese hospital based on the EPA deal, but declined it shortly before leaving for Japan. She said she was suddenly scared by the thought of living in Japan and taking the examination in Japanese.
However, the 31-year-old nurse is now determined to try again, as she still wants to work in Japan, which is known for its excellent medical technology.
But the first step, she said, is tackling the Japanese language.
Manila apparently has growing concerns that it may fail in its role of sending nurses to Japan as outlined in the economic partnership agreement, prompting it to take action. In February, 59 Philippine nurses made their first attempt at Japan's national nursing exams; only one passed. If nurses on the EPA program fail to pass the exam for three straight years, they must return home.
Questions have been raised over the current EPA arrangement, which offers foreign nurses only six months of Japanese language lessons.
To turn the situation around, the Philippine government has allocated 2.2 million peso (4.4 million yen) to launch the Japanese program and has paid as many as 75 participants in the program an allowance of 6,000 peso a month.
The government now appears to be considering participation in the program when selecting nurses to be sent to Japan. It hopes this will encourage capable nurses to go to Japan, which is a less popular destination than Western nations--where English is used more commonly--among many nurses.
Manila also is reportedly considering inviting more applicants and increasing class time.
The EPA between Japan and the Philippines took effect in December 2008. In May last year, the Philippines began dispatching nurses and caregivers to Japan. Under the EPA deal, Japan accepts up to 1,000 such nurses and caregivers for two years, but only 436 have been sent so far.
In Japan, the high cost of getting foreign nurses up to speed because of the language hurdle has deterred some potential employers from hiring them. The EPA will be reviewed next year, and Tokyo likely will seek to tweak the current system.
Viveca Catalig, a deputy administrator at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, acknowledged his country's own effort has its limits, and said he hopes Japan will consider expanding its language training and easing requirements for nurses in order not to disappoint motivated Philippine applicants.

Switzerland starts hiring Pinay nannies

By Danny Buenafe - ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau
The close coordination between the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Swiss authorities proved fruitful as there is now a gradual phase-in of new recruits for Filipino au pairs or nannies in Switzerland.
Ambassador Teresa Lazaro relayed the good news adding that almost 50 newly hired nannies have started working with their respective Swiss employers.
“There’s actually a demand for our Filipina au pairs. We seemed to be very good with languages and very good in taking care of the young children,” said Lazaro.
Under the agreement, there is no placement fee for the applicants, and the average take home pay is almost 1,000 Swiss Francs or almost P43,000 every month.
According to Lazaro, the applicant must meet certain qualifications. Her age should be 18 to 25 years old. She must also be single, and should learn the German language which will be paid up by her employer.
The work contract, as stipulated in the law, will only be for 18 months or one-year-and-a-half and with no renewal.
For those interested, Lazaro said they need to coordinate with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
“There are certain offices, agencies, here that are specializing on Filipino au pairs,” she said.
Meanwhile, Lazaro is also pushing for the training agreement with Swiss government to allow the recruitment of Filipino nurses to Switzerland.
“Switzerland is already in need of health workers,” Lazaro said.
It is possible, she said, that the recruitment of Filipina nurses would start next year as there is now a big demand in various university hospitals in Switzerland.

Gov’t urged to find migration balance

By Nathaniel R. Melican - BusinessWorld
The Philippines should determine the “optimum level” of migration for different professions to prevent either a shortage or surplus in the country’s human resources.
Such an exercise will benefit both the country and its labor force by ensuring that the economy is well supported and at the same time providing the workers ample opportunity to recover their investments in education, Winfred M. Villamil, dean of the De La Salle University School of Economics, told BusinessWorld in an interview.
Migration for better work abroad is not bad in itself, Mr. Villamil said.
“People who would otherwise not invest in a college degree or in learning a new skill will be encouraged because of the prospect of working abroad and earning more. A certain optimum amount of migration will therefore raise the welfare not only of the migrants but also of the people left behind,” Mr. Villamil said.
But the migration rate must be monitored as an imbalance will have a negative impact, he said.
Mr. Villamil said signs that migration in a particular profession has breached the optimum point is when shortages occur and when average productivity of workers in the profession is declining. Another sign is when there is a surplus of workers in the profession.
Such an imbalance can be observed in the nursing profession, Mr. Villamil said.
“When nursing became in demand abroad and a lot of people were being hired as nurses abroad, you saw all these nursing schools sprout and you see all these people enrolling in nursing schools,” he said, noting that this sudden outflow of nurses temporarily caused a shortage of nurses locally.
“Today, I think we are now experiencing a surplus [of nurses],” he said.
Similarly, the number of Philippine workers in the maritime industry might also be breaching the optimum mark, as the demand abroad is now for more skilled workers.
“In terms of crews for ships, I think the demand is starting to decline.
We are also facing competition from other countries. I think the trend now is more toward the higher skilled level, for people who are going to be officers in ships,” he said.
Mr. Villamil said once the national government determines the optimum level of migration in different sectors, it can encourage people to develop skills in professions where labor supply has not reached the optimum mark, so they can enhance their employment opportunities abroad.
“The government should also think about ways to control migration so that the flow is optimal, but without infringing on the right of people to go where they want to go,” he said.
But Rene E. Ofreneo, professor at the University of the Philippines’ School of Labor and Industrial Relations, is cautious of the promotion of migration, saying this produces a “vicious cycle” that will end in the depletion of the country’s human resources.
“Our dependence on migration drains us of many high-end workers, such as engineers. This will slowly but surely affect the local industry and could even lead to the failure of local industries and even mission-critical services, such as health care,” Mr. Ofreneo said in a telephone interview.
He urged the government to focus on developing the local job market.

Hospital condemned for discriminating vs Pinoy nurses

By Henni Espinosa - ABS-CBN North America Bureau
Filipino nurses, advocates and community groups flocked to the headquarters of the California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) Wednesday to condemn the hospital chain for discriminating against Filipinos.
“We are here because we are concerned for the Filipino nurses. We have been advocates for the Filipino nurses for many years,” said Lilian Galedo, Executive Director of Filipino Advocates for Justice.
Last August, the California Nurses Association (CNA) filed a class action grievance against CPMC after some former nurse managers complained that they were told not to hire Filipino nurses because “they’re hard to understand.”
CNA cited that in 2008, Filipinos comprised 48% of new hires among nurses at St. Luke’s, one of CPMC’s hospitals. The union said that number decreased to 10% today.
Filipino nurse Ron Villanueva was up for promotion when he said he heard the Vice President for Nursing say that she should stop hiring foreign graduates.
Villanueva said, “I didn’t prod or anything. The mere fact that she said, I was already discouraged. What was the point of me applying?”
Two months after the Filipino nurses and CNA filed a class action grievance, CPMC management agreed to meet with Filipino community leaders, except for complainants like Villanueva.
“That just means they’re really guilty of discrimination. Why can’t they face me and others who personally witnessed what they said against us Filipinos?” he asked.
Terry Valen, Executive Director of the Filipino Community Center, said CPMC’s management denied that discrimination ever took place.
“They told us that they have conducted an internal investigation on this. And we have yet to see the results of that investigation,” Valen said.
Filipino nurse Marilen Logan was also present at the meeting. She said there is no truth to claims of some of her kababayans that CPMC discriminates against Filipinos.
“When I heard about this, I thought it was a joke that came from the rumor mill. People at CPMC hire a lot of Filipino nurses. I just don’t see what they’re saying.”
But protesters stood by their word that CPMC targets Filipino nurses. Community leaders said that unless CPMC corrects this, they will support the Filipino nurses in filing a class action lawsuit against the hospital chain.
Jane Sandoval, a nurse at St. Luke’s Hospital for 25 years and a union leader said, “This is not just a fight for Filipino nurses. This is a fight against discrimination. Whoever feels abused, we will make sure to back them up.”

A REAL Nurse

When Dad was ill, my sister went to the hospital and told everyone that she was a nurse and she'd be watching them. She is a nurse -- sort of. She's a "Gucci nurse". She comes to work in her Gucci suit and her Prada heels carrying her designer handbag and her Coach briefcase and sits in her corner office with the gorgeous view making policy for a chain of hospitals. She hasn't been near a patient in over 25 years (except for that time where her "fire most of the RNs and hire non-licensed personnel instead" policy caused the remaining RNs to strike . . . ) She arrived to visit Dad wearing $100 blue jeans, a cashmere sweater and carrying the designer handbag and Coach briefcase. I’m sure that her hair and make-up were perfectly done as well. She didn't like Dad's room and insisted he be moved closer to the nurse's station, and then wanted a cot installed for my mother to sleep on and the food on the trays wasn't appetitizing enough and . . . . Nothing, it seemed, was good enough. She was ever so polite, I’m sure, while making it excrutiaitingly obvious that no one was quite as good as she, either.

I arrived a day later in rumpled jeans and sweater and bleary eyes from an overnight flight. I got to the ICU about 6 AM and, having heard from my sister about the 24/7 visiting hours, went directly to the nurse's station to ask if it was a good time to visit my father, Mr. Farmer. "WHO is your father?" asked the nurse rather strangely. "Mr. Farmer," I said. "My sister said he was in CCU."

"Oh," she said. "I'll get your father's nurse."

And so the nurse came hesitantly out of Dad's room, peering around the corner obviously looking for my always impeccably dressed and groomed sibling and seeing only rumpled, overweight and dowdy me. "Did your sister fill you in on your Dad's condition?" he asked. "She says she's a nurse."

I laughed and said, as I always do when asked about what my sister does for a living, "She's a Gucci nurse." This guy didn’t seem to require the explanation about the Gucci suit, designer accessories and corner office with a view.

Dad's nurse began using layman's terms and a gingerly manner, to fill me in on Dad's MI. Turns out it was The "Big One." I asked questions, he provided answers and before either of us quite realized how it happened, he was giving me a nurse-to-nurse report using the big words and everything. For the first time since my mother’s frantic phone call that Dad had chest pain and she was driving him to the hospital, I had a clear idea what was going on. I sat with Dad until physician rounds started and then, out of courtesy, I got up and started gathering my things to leave. My ICU didn’t encourage family to stay for teaching rounds, and I wasn’t going to expect “professional courtesy.”

Dad's nurse surprised me by telling me I should stay for rounds. And then he introduced me to Dad's doctor. "This is Mr. Farmer's other daughter, Ruby," he said to the group. "This one's a REAL nurse."

I never got invited to participate in rounds again -- I was never there at the inhospitable hour of 6AM again. But Dad’s doctors made a point of seeking ME out for the “family updates” and more than once, when my sister was highly visible on the unit, called me to their offices for a private conversation. It was probably far easier to talk to me, a CCU nurse who actually understood what they were saying than to either my mother -- who was probably already sliding into dementia -- or my sister the Gucci nurse. I’ve often regarded that introduction -- as “a REAL nurse” -- one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever recieved!

Teacher turned Nurse

Nursing and Teaching are alike, and not alike.
I miss teaching. I miss summer vacation. Christmas vacation, Easter break, President's day. I miss the bell that says "go home", or the one that signals the end of a horrible class. I miss teenagers, the chatter, the hang-dog looks, the laughter, the tons of long healthy hair.

Even cafeteria duty which used to be a punishment. Listening in on pre-pubescent conversations to get a hint of what the next generation is thinking. Standing in the corner looking bored so they don't know I'm taking it all in.

I miss teaching. Seeing that light bulb go on, hearing myself explain something I really know and looking into young eager eyes that want the information. Priceless. The feeling that something good and real and valuable has happened here today. Sitting quietly with a 14 year old whose friends have decided to 'hate' her today. I miss it.

And yet--nursing the elderly has it's moments too. No doubt it's worthwhile. I still get to intimately connect with other human beings. Only this time it feels like most of the learning is on my part. I've been a teenager, I know what they feel, how they think. But old is something yet to be for me. I can only imagine how old feels. I love hearing the stories when they can tell one and when I have the time. The "good-old-days" when there were no TV's computers or pollution. When people connected in ways we nostalgically wonder about. When Sunday was a day of rest and that meant sitting in the parlor talking. Think about that for a minute.

Looking into old eyes I see the child, the teen, the young man or woman. The lights are still on and someone is in there. They look to me for care, understanding and sustenance. They shake their heads sadly when I just don't get it and I'm frustrated. I can ease their aches for awhile, give them the gift of my time, or a magazine, some cream on their feet. I can try to listen and empathize. They need me, well maybe not me exactly but they need the connection with a younger generation just as we all need connections with people older and younger than ourselves. We are all teachers and we are all students learning how to live how to-be.

So yes I miss teaching and school, but the world is school and learning never ends. Sometimes though I just wish the bell would ring.