An increasing number of Philopino nurses have over the past few years moved to work in Norway, where the demand for nurses exceed the supply with some 5,500 nurses. Generally, the Philipino nurses are popular because of their dedication, charm and attitude to working long hours when needed.
Within January to August of this year alone, 7,855 nurses have left the Philipines to work overseas. Apart from Norway, countries like USA and Canada, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Ireland and Saudi Arabia are the main beneficiaries of this flow. Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and Korea are expected to open its doors to foreign nurses soon. The demand for Filipino nurses is expected to increase in the next 10 to 15 years.
Measly wages are the primary reason that prods nurses to migrate. Currently, nurses with two or three years’ experience earn only P6,000 to 10,000 a month, or $120 to $198 per month. Salaries in countries like Norway may be double this amount.
Other recruitment incentives offered by agencies working on behalf of institutions abroad are often very generous, including free airfare and accommodation in taking foreign-based exams, free one-way airfare to destination, one to three months free housing, assistance in securing driver’s license, free life and health insurance, paid vacation leaves for over two weeks after one year of service and a recruitment bonus of $5,000 to $6,000 given at the end of the second year of service. A major consideration is an immigrant visa that allows them to bring their immediate family members with them.
The downside – for the Philippines – is a growing demand at home for experienced nurses to the extend that it is seen by some as weakening the country’s own health care system. According to the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW), in the last two years, 800 or 17 percent of nurses in 11 hospitals went abroad. Operating rooms are staffed with novice nurses, and experienced ones often work double shifts. Gary Liberal, an OR nurse in Jose R. Reyes Memorial and Medical Center, said that 25 out of 30 of them, or 63 percent, have applied to go abroad.
The Department of Health’s response to the problem is not to stop the brain drain.
“We can not stop them from leaving,” says Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit.
“Commission on Higher Education should make sure that the new two-year nursing courses offered in nursing schools adhere to local and international standards.”
DOH response to the problem is to ensure production of competent nurses appropriate to demands of the world market. In the process, nursing schools attune their curriculum more and more to western health care system to prepare graduates for jobs abroad. Hospital practice is being emphasized to the detriment of rural community nursing thus pre-conditioning students’ career in nursing.