Friday, October 10, 2008

Nursing Now an Ailing Profession

By Jerry E. Esplanada
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Features / Features
Posted date: October 10, 2008

"PAANO na kami?" (What’s will happen to us?)” asks an anxious Genevieve “Bing” Lorenzo in serious concern over published reports that the once burgeoning overseas demand for Filipino nurses has begun to wane.

This part-time private pre-school teacher is currently enrolled in a Metro Manila hospital cum nursing school with “high hopes” that she would be able to work abroad in four or five years, preferably in the United States, where one of her siblings is based. This 24-year old Nueva Ecija native is now having second thoughts about finishing her course.

Sometime in July, Dr. Leah Paquiz, president of the Philippine Nursing Association (PNA), said in a news conference that Filipinos aspiring to jump on the nursing bandwagon should think twice. “Many licensed nurses are now underemployed or unemployed as a result of changes of policy in destination-countries, the current situation of oversupply and quality problems, among other things,” Paquiz explained.

A slowdown in overseas postings for nurses, particularly in the US and the United Kingdom, has resulted in a glut of nurses in the local market, PNA officials said. Nursing is no longer a lucrative profession and students who think they can use it as a passport to greener pastures abroad are seriously mistaken, they added.

Josefina Tuazon, dean of the University of the Philippines College of Nursing, advises prospective nurses to “go into nursing for the right reasons. If you are thinking of going into nursing to be able to go abroad or because your family is pressuring (you), then it is not the time.”

Higher Education Commissioner Nona S. Ricafort agrees. “At this point, we’re not encouraging Pinoys to join the nursing bandwagon,” she says. “Sad to say, the foreign demand for our nurses has hit a plateau (due to US and UK government policy issues). Most of the hospitals there have put a freeze on hiring nurses.”

Big hospitals like Philippine General Hospital in Manila and St. Luke’s in Quezon City have a backlog of nursing applications and a waiting time of six to 12 months. But Ricafort strongly believes that “the slowdown will only be temporary. Nursing jobs will be available again soon. We’re very confident about that.”

Reports from the US, Japan and some European countries describe a crisis in hospitals there, notes this CHed official. “With these countries’ aging populations, there’s a need for nurses. Who will take care of their old folk?”

With a projected enrollment of 497,214 students during the current school year, nursing tops the list of college courses here, according to records of the Commission on Higher Education’s Office of Policy, Planning, Research and Information.

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