Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Laborer’s son opts to stay, work in the Philippines

Even this year’s topnotcher in the board licensure exams for nurses agrees: “There are so many of us.”
But still, for Jomel Lapides, 21, this surplus can be turned into a strength—by making it more attractive for new nurses to work in the public health sector, especially in underserved areas in the countryside.
The construction worker’s son emerged No. 1 in the exams conducted in early July by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), where 37,513 examinees made the cut out of 78,135. Lapides, who graduated cum laude from the University of the Philippines Manila, topscored with a rating of 88.4 percent.
The achievement, while bringing untold joy to his family who lives in a relocation site in Rodriguez, Rizal province, ushers him into a profession once considered to be a sure ticket to greener pastures abroad but is now overcrowded with the unemployed.
But in an interview a day after the PRC released the exam results, a euphoric and grateful Lapides sounded so sure that he could find his place—and it’s definitely not overseas.
“My family and friends are here,” he said when asked about his job-hunting plans.
Currently earning his pocket money working as a math and science tutor, Lapides said his immediate plan after getting his license would be to apply at state-run Philippine General Hospital (PGH), where he looked after mostly indigent patients during his on-the-job training. “These are the people who really need help,” he said.
A “simple guy” who enjoys reading textbooks and other materials even during the summer break or well in advance before his teachers called for it, Lapides said he had not given much thought to seeking more lucrative employment abroad.
“I’m content with what we have,” he told the Inquirer in an interview on Sunday at the family’s home, an unfinished one-story, two-room affair shared with five people, with a technicolor clothesline dominating the facade, and whose only remarkable piece of furniture was a tall bookshelf containing some 50 nursing books.
For as long as his family would have enough to get by, Lapides said, getting a fat paycheck may not necessarily be his motivation and priority.
“[My classmates and I] were exposed to public hospitals and different communities,” Lapides recalled. “Though there are many hospitals, poor patients from the provinces still have to go to PGH (to afford the treatment).”
Lapides agreed with government assessments that the country, after banking on a high demand for nurses abroad, had ended up producing an oversupply of nursing graduates.
As early as 2006, the Philippine Nurses Association said demand for nurses in the United States and UnitedKingdom, for example, had plunged.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona has also been advising incoming college students to stay out of nursing since more than 200,000 nursing graduates are currently out of work.
Wasted investments
“I agree with the move to cut down the number of nursing schools,” Lapides said. “The students’ investments just get wasted because of lack of job openings. And even if they pass the board exams, if their schools don’t have a good performance record, it would be difficult for them to find employment.”
But he also saw the irony of it all: There are still so many far-flung communities in the country in need of basic health services, so “why not send us to serve there? There are so many of us.”
The UP alumnus also asked the government to look into hospitals that reportedly ask licensed nurses to still pay for their “training.”
“They are qualified and are serving their duty. Why do they have to pay for it?” he wondered aloud.
Tough questions from someone who actually planned to take up civil engineering—not nursing—when he took the UP admission tests. Lack of confidence at the time, he said, made him write down nursing as his “first choice” and engineering as only his second.
By his third year in nursing school, Lapides could already switch to engineering, having met all the requirements. But then he had already grown to love the course and his supportive “batch mates” in UP.
Text ‘joke’
He said he and his batch mates made the otherwise tough course easier by organizing study groups as the board exams drew near.
They had become such a lighthearted but closely knit bunch, Lapides said, that before he personally got confirmation that he topped the tests, his batch mates were already texting him about his feat.
And yet he still laughed it off as just another prank, he said, chuckling. His initial reaction was: “Sabay-sabay nila akong pinagti-tripan (They were all playing a joke on me).”
But the joke turned out to be for real. His summer readings and study group sessions had paid off, and Lapides can now celebrate not only his success but that of his fellow nursing board passers from UP Manila.
“I’m so proud of all of us,” he said, referring to the other 56 examinees from UP, all of whom passed the 2011 exams.
Laborer’s son opts to stay, work in the Philippines
Philippine Daily Inquirer, August 23, 2011

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