Monday, May 16, 2011

Fewer Filipino nurses seek work in U.S.

Fewer Filipino nursing graduates want to work in the United States, a lawmaker said Sunday.

Only 1,454 Filipino nursing graduates took the U.S. National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) for the first time from January to March this year, down 52% compared to 3,024 in the same 3-month period in 2010, according to LPGMA party-list Rep. Arnel Ty.

The NCLEX is the licensure exam administered by the U.S. National Council of State Boards of Nursing (USNCSBN).

The number of Filipino nursing graduates taking the NCLEX for the first time, excluding repeaters, is considered a reliable indicator as to how many of them are trying to enter the profession in the US, Ty said in a press statement.

Citing USNCSBN statistics, Ty said in 2010, the number of Filipino nursing graduates who took the NCLEX for the first time dropped by 37% to just 9,789 compared to 15,382 in the whole of 2009.

It prompted him to file a bill seeking to establish a special jobs plan for the country’s growing number of unemployed and underemployed nurses.

Ty proposed in House Bill 4582 that the jobs plan would be an expanded version of the Nurses Assigned in Rural Service (NARS), the short-lived Philippine government project that enlisted 10,000 nurses to improve healthcare services in the country’s 1,000 poorest municipalities in 2009.

He said nurses are now the country’s second-largest group of professionals after teachers, and the nation’s biggest group of unemployed skilled workers.

In the 30 months from June 2008 to December 2010 alone, he said a total of 500,766 nursing graduates took the local licensure exam administered by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), with 40% of them or 204,754 passing and becoming registered practitioners or RNs.

"The country now has tens of thousands of nurses who are either totally jobless or performing work that has nothing to do with their specialization," Ty said.

"The problem has been aggravated by America’s lingering economic difficulties, which have lessened both the demand for Filipinos nurses as well as their desire to seek employment in that country," he added.

The United States has been a key foreign labor market for Filipino nurses. NCLEX statistics provided by Ty’s office showed that in the last 16 years, from 1995 to 2010, a total of 140,451 Filipino nursing graduates took the U.S. licensure exam for the first time.

Ty want the government to establish the Special Program for the Employment of Nurses in Urban and Rural Services or NURSE, to deliver additional public health care services to depressed municipalities in the countryside as well as informal settlements in urban areas, while providing gainful employment to RNs and developing their competencies.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona urged incoming college students last week to avoid taking up nursing.

He said too many nurses are jobless, while many nursing schools were closing following a government review of their quality of instruction.

As proposed by Ty in his bill, the NURSE program would mobilize a total of 10,000 nurses every year, with each practitioner serving a 6-month tour of duty and receiving a monthly stipend not lower than the amount commensurate to Salary Grade 15, the higher starting pay for government nurses mandated by the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002.

The program would be directed, managed, and administered jointly by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Health (DOH), and the PRC in consultation with the Board of Nursing, with the Secretary of Labor and Employment as program director.

The recruitment and selection of nurses for employment under the program would be the responsibility of the DOLE through its regional offices.

Nurses engaged under the program must not be over 35 years old, and must have a valid PRC-issued RN license.

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