MANILA (Apr. 25) — The number of Filipino nurses wanting to work in the U.S. declined by 10.5 percent in the first quarter of this year, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) reported over the weekend.
TUCP secretary-general and former Senator Ernesto Herrera said a total of 4,194 Filipino nurses sought to practice their profession in America by taking the NCLEX for the first time from January to March. This was 492 fewer compared to the 4,686 that took the test for the first time in the same period in 2008.
The NCLEX refers to US National Council (of State Boards of Nursing) Licensure Examination. In 2008, a total of 20,746 Filipino nurses took the NCLEX for the first time. This was down 3.5 percent compared to the 21,499 that took the test for the first time in 2007.
“It is quite possible that the severe global economic downturn, which has hit America hard, has somewhat dampened for now the desire of some Filipino nurses to seek employment [in the U.S.],” said Herrera, former chairman of the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development.
Herrera said the U.S. healthcare industry as a whole and hospitals in particular continue to add staff, while other industries have been throwing out workers.
He cited a U.S. government report showing that while a total of 5.1 million American jobs have been lost since the U.S. recession began in December 2007, the healthcare sector still created 30,000 new jobs monthly in 2008, plus 17,000 new jobs monthly in the first quarter of 2009.
Herrera, meanwhile, challenged the Commission on Higher Education and schools nationwide to encourage nursing students to specialize in geriatric nursing, or the provision of nursing services to elderly individuals.
“The populations of America, Japan and other industrialized countries are getting very old. There is tremendous demand now for geriatric nurses,” Herrera said.
“Our point is, if we must continue to produce and export nurses, we might as well make our programs highly responsive to the demands of the global markets. This way, fresh nursing graduates would readily obtain gainful employment overseas,” he added.
Herrera lamented the huge oversupply of nurses locally was keeping their wages here even more depressed. “We now have more than half a million nurses looking for jobs, including the 67,220 that passed the local licensure examinations in July 2008 and February this year,” he said.
Alarmed by the surge in the number of jobless nurses, the government recently launched NARS, a program that allows them to return to their hometowns for a six-month tour of duty in return for a monthly allowance of P8,000.
NARS aims to address the glut in inexperienced nurses; the proliferation of volunteer nurses who pay hospitals to obtain work experience; and poor healthcare in the rural areas.
Lured by the promise of high-paying overseas jobs, nursing still remains the most popular college program in the country, with a total of 420,015 students currently taking up the course.