A POTENTIAL job in the United States has been the driving force for countless young Filipinos to take up nursing in the past few decades. In some cases, even those passing out as doctors have been known to take up crash courses in nursing in order to qualify for promising US job opportunities in the nursing sector that come with the possibility further down the road of a much coveted green card—although in reality the card is blue in color!
But surprisingly, only 806 Filipino nurses indicated their desire to seek potential employment in America by taking the NCLEX—the prerequisite examination of all potential US nursing applicants—for the first time from January to March this year. NCLEX refers to the (National Council) Licensure Examination administered by the US National Council of State Boards of Nursing Inc. (USNCSBN). The number represents a decline of 6.6 percent compared to the 863 Philippine-educated nurses who took the NCLEX for the first time in the same three-month period in 2012.
Citing USNCSBN statistics, Rep. Arnel Ty of LPGMA party-list, author of a bill proposing to establish a new jobs plan for the nation’s growing number of idle nurses now estimated at 320,000, points out that among foreign-educated nurses, Filipinos remain the most aggressive job-seekers in American hospitals, clinics and nursing homes.
Ty noted that 257 Indians, 125 Canadians, 118 Puerto Ricans and 106 South Koreans also took the NCLEX for the first time in the first quarter of this year.
The lawmaker is “cautiously optimistic” that the US Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, will eventually help revive America’s demand for Filipino nurses.
Obamacare is expected to increase by some 10 percent the number of insured Americans potentially seeking health care, and this could help stimulate demand for foreign nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists, medical technologists, radiologists and speech pathologists.
In the interim, Ty stressed the need for the Philippine government to develop other foreign labor markets, such as Japan and the Middle East, for Filipino nurses.
In the whole of 2012, only 3,673 Filipino nurses took the NCLEX for the first time, or just 17 percent of the record-high 21,499 who took the exam at the height of the nursing boom in 2007.
Taking and passing the NCLEX is usually the final step in the US nurse licensure process. The number of Filipinos taking the exam for the first time, excluding repeaters, is a considered a good indicator as to how many of them are trying to enter the profession in America.
Ty is author of House Bill 4582, which seeks to establish the Special Program for the Employment of Nurses in Urban and Rural Services or NURSE.
It proposes to mobilize at least 10,000 nurses every year for deployment to poor and undeserved communities. They would each serve a six-month tour of duty, and get a monthly stipend not lower than P24,887.
Thousands of new graduates as well as repeaters were expected take the Philippine nursing licensure exam held last week in 16 cities across the country. The passers will join the 16,908 new registered nurses that the country produced in January.