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Opinion

Invest in our nurses  

US IMMIGRATION NOTES - Atty. Marco F.G. Tomakin - The Freeman

First of all, congratulations to those who passed the November 2022 Nursing Licensure Examinations. I am very pleased to see 20 top 10 placers from Cebu, of which eight are from my alma mater, Cebu Normal University. Congratulations as well to the parents and families of the new nurses. All your sacrifices and hard work paid off in this memorable success.

Obtaining a license as a professional nurse is such a very significant achievement as it becomes a gateway to practicing all the knowledge and skills learned from four years in Nursing school. If graduation from college gives one a sense of relief, passing the board carries a sense of responsibility and the burden of accountability expected of a professional. I remember it was in August of 1995 when I learned I passed, and the very first question I asked myself was: What now? Even before I took the formal oath, I already felt how challenging it might be for me to have a career as a nurse, granting I can even find a job. True, being one of the top 10 placers and a graduate from a prestigious Nursing school might be résumé boosters, but those weren’t enough for employers to come knocking on my door. Maybe for other professions, but not for nursing. The initial euphoria of passing the board is fizzled out by the reality that with the glut of fellow current passers and other already unemployed and underemployed licensees all competing for a few open slots in entry-level nursing positions, landing your first job as a nurse may not be as glorifying as you expect. In all likelihood, you’ll do the work that nobody wants at shifts nobody wants to show up, be paid less, and still expected to be thankful you have a job in the first place.

This isn’t to discourage the new nurses. This is just a stark reiteration of the disproportionate imbalance between licensed nurses and available nursing jobs. How many of these 18,529 fresh RNs can realistically land a nursing job in clinics, hospitals, and medical centers? This isn’t even an issue between supply and demand; there has always been a need of nurses for the Philippine healthcare system. Our steady stream of new nurses year after year is the envy of other countries. Yet we don’t maximize this important human resource. How do we do that? The government must take the lead in prioritizing healthcare. It must build and invest in new hospitals and specialty medical centers. I cannot comprehend why a metropolitan and regional financial powerhouse such as Cebu doesn’t have dedicated facilities solely for the care and treatment of children, cancer, coronary, kidney, lung, etc. And it need not be at the heart of a highly-urbanized and already-congested city.

There must be other ways to encourage the growth of the medical sector in this country which in turn provides jobs and opportunities not only for nurses but for medical and allied health professions. Perhaps partnerships with foreign healthcare systems, relaxing laws on foreign ownership of private corporations that intend to open up branches here in the Philippines. Strengthening capabilities of rural clinics and district hospitals, and increasing salaries and offering bigger incentives for healthcare professionals working in far-flung areas.

The COVID-19 pandemic showed something very obvious: We need our nurses and all our healthcare workers, being the true lifeblood of this nation. When everything else closed down, our hospitals were open. When everyone else didn’t or wasn’t allowed to work, guess who showed up? When the situation became a matter of choosing one’s own health (or that of their families) and the life of their patients, who stood up and sacrificed their own well-being?

Now is the time to invest in the future of our nurses. While the rest of the world drools over the sight of more than 18,000 new nurses, it would be such a big shame if we can only spare a few open spots for them.

* * *

I would like to personally congratulate my alma mater, Cebu Normal University College of Nursing for such a stellar performance in the recent nursing boards. Kudos to the topnotchers, the passers, their families, the CNU nursing faculty and staff and the whole CNU family. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child, here CNU has once again proven that it takes more than just a village to raise a nurse.

NURSING LICENSURE EXAMINATIONS

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