RP nurses seeking US jobs number 15,000 in first 9 months of ’08

A TOTAL of 15,079 Filipinos took the United States licensure examination for nurses for the first time from January to September 2008, indicating they wanted to seek employment in America, former senator Ernesto Herrera, secretary-general of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), disclosed Thursday.

Herrera said the number of Filipino nurses who took the Nclex and implied their desire to enter the US nursing profession in the nine months to September was unchanged when compared with the 15,083 who took the test over the same period in 2007.

The Nclex refers to the National Council Licensure Examination administered by the US (National Council of) State Boards of Nur-sing Inc.

Citing Nclex statistics, Herrera said the Philippines remains America’s No.1 source of foreign nurses. In the nine-month period that 15,079 Filipinos took the Nclex, he said 2,474 Indians; 1,306 South Koreans; 676 Cubans; and 520 Canadians also took the test.

Herrera’s disclosure came amid fears that the lingering global financial crisis and a severe US recession would dampen the deployment of Filipino workers overseas, and slow home-bound remittances—a key driver of Philippine economic growth.

In the whole of 2007, a record total of 21,499 Filipinos took the Nclex for the first time (excluding repeaters). This was up 6,328, or 42 percent, compared with the 15,171 Filipinos who took the Nclex for the first time in 2006.

Herrera, meanwhile, pushed for the increase in the entry-level monthly basic pay of government staff nurses to P16,093, as mandated by the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002. He lamented that up to now, many government staff nurses are receiving only P8,000 monthly.

The TUCP has been a solid backer of Filipino nurses. The labor group has been batting for the deployment of Filipino nurses to lucrative job markets overseas, saying professionals are entitled to take their skills to where these would get the greatest reward.

For years, Herrera has also been urging regulators to close down a growing number of substandard nursing schools.

“Regulators should now be extra watchful, and see to it that nursing students are kept away from low-grade schools,” said Herrera, former chairman of the Senate labor, employment and human resources development committee.

He cited the need for the Commission on Higher Education, under its new chairman, Emmanuel Angeles, and the Professional Regulation Commission, also under its new chairman, Nicolas Lapeña Jr., to shield parents and students from the spread of so-called diploma mills.

“We must stress that regulators are duty-bound to safeguard the hopes and dreams of tens of thousands of Filipino families to produce a nurse practitioner who will eventually lead them to a better quality of life,” Herrera said.

More than 500,000 students are now enrolled in nursing schools nationwide.

Of the 132,187 nursing graduates who took the last two Philippine (nursing) licensure tests in December 2007 and in June this year, only 56,689, or less than 43 percent, passed.

A report by the Commission on Audit previously revealed that out of 263 nursing schools surveyed, only 111 had at least 50 percent of their graduates pass the local nursing eligibility test from 2001 to 2005.

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