Friday, 22 February 2008

Nursing a nurse's problem

I join the Filipino nation in congratulating the more than 28,000 nurses who passed the December 2007 licensure exam in the Philippines. The results were released today.

Getting into the nursing profession is said to be the easiest way to the proverbial greener pastures as nurses are said to be in great demand in the greying First World.

And because most Westerners are not keen on letting their kids aspire to follow Florence Nightingale's footsteps, hospitals and nursing homes go to other countries like the Philippines and India to "poach" for professionals to fill in their medical staff requirements.

The demand daw for nurses is so huge that there are more than enough slots daw until the year 2020. Note that I placed two daws in that sentence because I'm doubting such statement. (hmmm....did the Filipino word "daw" evolved from the English word "doubt"?)

Anyway, I'm not an authority to discuss this. The Manila Times once ran a special report on the nursing brain drain, so check it out for yourself.

Why am I suddenly interested in nurses? Well, I happen to be married to one.

Mara was among those who passed the June 2007 licensure exam. She's now an RN, but still a "certified bum" (her words).

Mara is what has been termed as a "second courser". Many like her were made to believe that the fastest and easiest way to earn greenbacks was to become a nurse.

In Mara's case, she really wanted to become a nurse. She was a nursing student in college before shifting to Commerce due to financial reasons. Her becoming a nurse can be said to be a realisation of her dream.

When news of Mara's hurdling of the nursing board spread, people kept on telling us: "Uy ang swerte nyo naman. Aalis na kayo papunta sa States nyan."

For sure, ganun din ang narinig ng mga kapamilya at kapuso ng mga pumasa sa last board exam.

Like us, umaasa na rin sila na in a short while, matutupad na rin ang pangarap nilang makatikim ng dolyares dahil mag-aabroad na ang kanilang bagong nurse!

Sorry to bust your bubble my dearies... it ain't gonna happen soon.

Linawin lang po natin. Hindi po por que nurse na po ang inyong asawa/anak/pamangkin/apo/girlfriend/boyfriend/kapatid/kapitbahay/kabit (oops) makakapagtrabaho na siya agad bilang nurse. Bakit po?

Those who passed the December board will have to to contend with maybe 40,000 unemployed registered nurses (my rough estimate) who spent months going from one hospital to another to submit their CVs. Sa batch pa lang nga ni Mara, parang parang 9 out of 10 are still unemployed.

Hospitals in Metro Manila are deluged with nurses. Hindi pa kasama doon ang mga student nurses who are required to render hospital duty.

Kahapon lang, Mara went to Medical Centre Manila in UN Avenue to submit her application. Ang dami raw applicants. She was placed on the "active" file, at tatawagan na lang daw pag may bakante. A simple case of the infamous "don't call us, we'll call you" line ng mga HR.

Naikot na rin ng mga classmates ni Mara ang halos lahat ng ospital sa Metro Manila para mag-apply pero until now, wala pa ni isa sa kanila ang tinatawagan for employment.

Dito naman pumapasok ang mga mapagsamantalang ospital.

Knowing that newly-passed nurses are desperate to start clocking in their experience, they're taking advantage of the situation.

May mga ospital tulad ng isang sikat na private hospital sa city of Manila that accepts "volunteer" nurses in exchange for a P5,000 donation to their charity foundation. And since they're "volunteers," the nurse don't get paid for working 8-10 hours, many in graveyard shifts.

There are also hospitals who tie up newly-hired nurses to a fixed contract. If the nurse decides to pre-terminate the contract, the hospital will not certify that he/she has worked with them.

Contrary to common perception, hindi agad makakapag-abroad ang mga nurses because overseas employers require nurses to have at least 2 years of local hospital experience because it is a government requirement. Dito lang sa Dubai, nurses must have at least 2 years experience before they are allowed to apply for a health ministry license. And all hospitals in the UAE only require nurses to have a ministry license.

Sa US naman daw, kailangan pasado ka sa NCLEX para makapag-work ka dun as nurse. Ang dami pang exam na dapat ring kunin ng mga nurses. Aside from the PRC-administered exam and the NCLEX, may naririnig pa akong CGFNS, IELTS, TOEFL at kung ano-ano pang alphabet soup exam.

So saan napupunta ang mga wasted human medical resource ng Pilipinas?

Many are now donning headsets instead of stethoscopes in call centres and medical transcription companies. Buti na raw na mag-call centre muna while waiting for their turn to take the NCLEX.

Meron namang pumupuslit at nagbabakasakali na lang sa abroad. Dito lang sa Dubai, ang dami daw na nurses na naghahanap ng trabaho with some even ending up as salesladies or office receptionists. Kaya nga di ko pinayagan si Mara sumunod sa akin dito dahil binabarat ang mga inexperienced at unlicensed nurses dito (wala pa daw Dh2,000 and sweldo sa mga tsipipay na clinics) at sayang naman ang pagka-nurse niya if she takes on a non-nursing job.

So now, if you hear our blabbermouth politicians and officials aspiring for media attention yakking about an alleged nursing brain-drain or doomsayers claiming the Philippine healthcare system is in peril...don't you ever believe these assholes. Nagpapapogi lang yung mga animal na yun.

THE PHILIPPINES IS OVERFLOWING WITH NURSES.... wala lang silang mapuwestuhan sa palpak na healthcare system natin.


On a more personal note, about a month ago today, we went to Sta Clara Monastery along Katipunan Ave in Quezon City to offer prayers and eggs to the poor Claires.

Pinoy urban legend has it that if you don't want your party to be rained out, go to Santa Clara and offer eggs and a prayer.

This afternoon, Mara was back in St Claire not to ask for the rains to stop but to comfort her friends who failed to make the cut in the December exam.

Let us pray for those who need to be comforted.

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