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Opinion

Our nurses. Our future

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

Florence Nightingale wore many hats. She was a statistician and a social reformer but most of all, she was a British nurse who came to be known as the founder of modern nursing.

Born on May 12, 1820, she was especially recognized for her work during the Crimean war which broke out in 1853 between the British and Russian empires.

A year after the war erupted, Nightingale was tasked to organize a corps of nurses to tend to the tens of thousands of wounded soldiers at the British base hospital in Constantinople. But nothing prepared her and her team for the horrendous conditions – a large cesspool and an army of rodents and bugs.

Nightingale wasted no time and set to work, vastly improving the sanitary conditions of the hospital while tending to the sick.

The rest, as they say, is history.

The soldiers called her the Angel of Crimea and to this day, Nightingale is revered as the pioneer of modern nursing.

Int’l Nurses Day

It’s the reason the world celebrates International Nurses Day on May 12 of every year, Nightingale’s birthday.

Early this month, the world again commemorated the special day in recognition of the selflessness and sacrifice of nurses across the globe – from Manila to Madagascar and everywhere in between.

The theme of this year’s celebration, as announced by the International Council of Nurses (ICN) is Our Nurses. Our Future, in recognition of how nurses continue to brave the frontlines as they did during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is a theme that aims to shine the light on nurses and on a brighter future, moving nurses from “invisible to invaluable” in the eyes of policymakers and the public, according to the ICN.

There’s a host of problems hounding the global nursing industry, including unprecedented retirement, low morale and high turnover. As such, 13 million nurses are needed worldwide to fully rehabilitate the industry.

In short, our future is dependent on nurses, but we severely lack the resources to staff a robust workforce.

A 2023 study found that one third of nurses report that they intend to leave their jobs due to low morale and unsatisfactory conditions. They are also not getting any younger – 55 percent of nurses are over the age of 50.

As such, ICN has called for evidence-based interventions to save the global industry.

Policymakers globally, including here in the Philippines, must reflect on the significance of this year’s theme, Our Nurses. Our Future. They must realize that modern health care systems cannot exist without a vigorous fleet of nurses.

Indeed, it’s time for every nurse to feel respected, valued and prioritized by policymakers worldwide. The future of the industry depends on it.

Our best

Against this backdrop, Filipino nurses, known for their compassionate approach to patient care as well as their commitment and dedication to work, are leaving their home country to fill in critical gaps.

Thus, whether we like it or not, the Philippines has become the largest exporter of nurses worldwide.

We give the world our best, as we said in that controversial ad on a bus in London.

Last year, at the height of the pandemic, I met a nurse in a private hospital in Quezon City. Like thousands before her, she was on her way to work abroad. At the time, she was just waiting for her papers to be processed.

The truth is that some 150,000 Filipino nurses have immigrated to the United States since the 1960s. In fact, a 2019 study found that one out of every 20 nurses in the US are from the Philippines.

This is unlikely to stop because of the global shortage of nurses. For sure, we can expect more Filipino nurses to leave the country.

At the end of 2021, Filipino Nurses United announced that nearly one-third of registered nurses in the Philippines were working abroad. Staffing agencies are also reporting increasing deployment from the Philippines.

As a Filipino, I salute our nurses for their sacrifice. We must celebrate them, especially on the occasion of International Nurses Day.

Like Florence Nightingale, they work hard to care for the sick and the wounded. All over the world, they safeguard citizens and they have been filling life-threatening gaps in international health care.

But as a Filipino, I am also sad that our nurses have to leave the Philippines to make a living.

As we celebrate their selflessness and hard work, may our policymakers also push for interventions so that Filipino nurses who opt to serve in the country will have reasons to stay and fill the critical gaps here as well.

Changes at PAL Holdings Inc.

At 2 p.m. today, PAL Holdings, the holding company of flag carrier Philippine Airlines, will have its annual stockholders meeting.

Will there be changes in leadership for this Lucio Tan-owned company as we’ve seen, say for example, in his other companies, including listed conglomerate LT Group Inc. (LTG)?

Tan’s grandson Lucio Tan III or LT3 officially took over as president of LTG just last May. Thus, LT3 is now vice-chairman, president and COO of LTG.

Will LT3 also take a leadership role in PAL Holdings?

I believe so because at present, the taipan is still the president, CEO and COO of PAL Holdings.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the taipan finally decides to relinquish some of these executive roles and appoint LT3 as president. Let’s see what happens in that meeting today.

*   *   *

Email: [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at EyesWideOpen on FB.

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