Monday, 7 April 2008

Too many nurses!

I wuz proven right!

In my earlier entry, I snorted about the situation of nurses in the Philippines and I based it on Mara's experience.

My rants are now backed with hard stats and industry stalwarts even serve as "talking heads" validating the issues I raised.

Again, I give way to my former Chronicle boss, Boo Chanco, who zeroed in on the issue in his Philippine Star column.

Read on . . .

Now we have too many nurses
By Boo Chanco
Monday, April 7, 2008 (Philippine Star)

Guess what… we now have too many nurses. According to published reports, Dr. Josefina Tuazon, University of the Philippines College of Nursing Dean, said we have so many nurses so that many fresh graduates are now opting to work in some local hospitals as volunteers… for free.

I can believe that. That happened too with physical therapists, once a popular course because of the foreign job possibilities. I was shocked when some of the physical therapists from a leading hospital (who worked on the rehab program for my aching back some years ago) told me they are working for free… as volunteers.

Now it is the nurses’ turn. Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) National President Leah Paquiz was also reported to have disclosed that the United States, home to almost 250,000 Filipino nurses, stopped issuing work visas this year because the quota requirement for migrant workers has already been reached. There were 21,000 Filipino nurses seeking employment in the US in 2007.

Dr. Tuazon and Paquiz agree that the oversupply of nurses is fast becoming a serious problem for the country. Yet, local nursing schools, many of them nothing more than diploma mills, continue to graduate thousands of nurses every year.

The situation is also being aggravated by government’s move to “ladderize” nursing education so that thousands more can “graduate” as so called practical nurses. Practical Nursing is a two-year course that focuses on the basics of nursing.

“There is no local demand or positions for practical nurses within the Philippine Health Care Delivery system particularly in the light of the oversupply of nurses and subsequent unemployment of graduate nurses,” PNA’s Paquiz emphasized.

In a sense, all those schools that have mushroomed in the country overnight promising overseas employment for graduates of this two-year non-degree course are really just scamming hopeful parents and students of their hard-earned (or borrowed) money.

Paquiz said the promise of work abroad is not true as foreign employers prefer the four-year college-degree nurses who passed the Licensure Board Exams.

This is why the PNA had asked the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to put a stop to this Practical Nursing program.

The PNA “strongly objects to the institution of the Practical Nursing program and vehemently rejects the proposed ladderization of the nursing curriculum,” a PNA statement said.

Our people must now be told that taking up nursing is no longer a foolproof means of getting out of this country to earn enough for a better life.

If what the nursing dean is saying is true, a nursing diploma has now become a kind of “fool’s gold” that can only disappoint for those who want a quick ticket out of our country’s poverty.

This is more reason why government, through CHED, must cut the number of nursing schools by enforcing tough quality standards on the nursing schools that are allowed to operate.

As of June last year, a staggering total of 632,108 students were enrolled in more than 400 Philippine nursing schools, up 30 percent or 145,875 from the 486,233 enlisted in 2006.

TUCP spokesperson Alex Aguilar urged regulators to “be extra vigilant, and see to it that nursing students are kept away from substandard schools.”

Aguilar urged the CHED to step up the policing of nursing schools nationwide to protect parents and students from the so-called “diploma mills.”

“We must stress that regulators are duty-bound to safeguard the hopes of tens of thousands of Filipino families to produce a nurse who will eventually lead them to greener pasture,” Aguilar said.

CHED’s failure to protect parents and students from substandard nursing schools had also been criticized by the Commission on Audit (COA).

In a report to acting CHED Chair Romulo Neri, the COA said it was necessary for CHED to exercise its regulatory function to “maintain and protect standards set to ensure the quality of nursing graduates.”

Fat chance that’s going to happen! CHED had been totally remiss in its duty to regulate nursing schools. We only have to look at the results of the licensure examinations conducted by the Professional Regulation Commission for proof.

In that controversial nursing examination in 2006, 42,000 took the exam on June 11 and 12 but ONLY 42 percent passed, despite the leakage.

According to COA, “from 2001 to 2005, only 111 of 263 nursing schools nationwide managed to have 50 percent of their nursing graduates pass the licensure examinations. Worse, at least 19 or 7.22 percent of these schools had failed to pass even a single student,” said the COA.

The COA also pointed out that in the last 10 years, not a single nursing school whose graduates fared badly in PRC exams had been closed by the CHED.

The failure of CHED to perform its function is also affecting the professional reputation of Filipino nurses.

In a sense, CHED is destroying our brand. COA made a very apt observation: nursing schools with poor quality nursing education continue to proliferate and consequently affect the global competitiveness of Filipino nurses in the eyes of employers in America, Europe and the Middle East.

The Philippine Nurses Association in America (PNAA) had issued a statement expressing its concern on just this point. It said it wants to be able to assure the people of America that there is quality nursing education in the Philippines but there is evidence that our nursing graduates, the greater majority produced are not passing our own licensure tests. It is a national embarrassment.

Now that there is already an oversupply of nurses, this popular strategy of becoming a nurse to escape poverty may no longer be viable. #

Postscript -- Over two months after Mara started her frantic search for a nursing position, she's still jobless and so are her batchmates who are now joined by the thousands who passed the December 2007 licensure exam. Tens of thousands more are set to join the ranks of the unemployed now that the graduation season is over.

We were initially "encouraging" our daughter Ara to take up nursing, but with the way things are going, I'm now inclined to stand down.

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