Production of RNs: Surplus With Underlying Scarcity

As scarcity of nurses happens in developed countries such as the United States, the Philippines tries to help settle the gaps in these countries by providing them with the professionals that they need. From 1992-2004, almost 90,000 of the proficient nurses in the Philippines can be seen in different parts of the globe (POEA, 2004). The Philippines was said to be the pioneer and the leading producer of nurses for the developed countries as it comprises 25% of the nurse migrants in the developed countries (Estella, 2005). As a matter of fact, it has been stated that around 83% of the nurses working in the United States are Filipinos (Philippine Star, 2007).

With the promise of the greener pastures settled in front of their eyes, Filipinos suddenly had this grown interest for the Nursing profession. If before, the motivation of the Filipinos in taking up Nursing was to offer care for the vulnerable population, right now, the dream of financial prosperity weighs greater than this intent. Nursing suddenly became a sort of a manpower business where the quality control department has been deleted somewhere.

Presently, the estimated job positions for nurses in the government, private and educational institutions, are around 27, 160 (Department of Health, 2000). In the data presented below, it can be seen that the number of nurses produced yearly is more than enough to neutralize the number of nurses who leave the country to work overseas. These figures suggest that the Philippine nursing workforce has a surplus of nurses for the domestic market.

Year No. of Nurse Migrants No. of new RNs
2001 13,536 4,430
2002 11,867 4,228
2003 8,968 7,528
2004 8,961 12,581
2005 7,097 25,951
2006 13,525 37,533
2007 9,178 62,550
2008 11,495 67220
2009 13,014 70,144
2010 12,082 67,390

While the Philippines hold a handful of nurses in quantity, the quality of the nurses in the domestic work force is the one suffering. As the pursuit of greater financial and career prospects abroad becomes appealing to the eyes of the Filipinos, the phenomena of brain drain starts to attack the profession and the health care system. Brain drain or the Human Capital Flight is the large scale emigration of a large group of highly skilled and knowledgeable individuals, such as the nurses (Buchan, 2008).

An evident cause of the creation of nurses with poor quality is the poor education that has produced them. From 50 nursing schools, a mushrooming 350 schools started to boom during the start of the second millennium.  Most of these new schools were not even accredited to have passed the CHED standards (Estella, 2005).  As a result, a decline in the passing rate from 54% in 2004, down to 39% in 2009 becomes noticeable (Professional Regulation Commission, 2011).

The nursing practice seems to be affected with this phenomenon as well. Since those who were qualified for migration are often the highly skilled and experienced nurses, the hospitals in the Philippines are being deprived of these kinds of nurses. A poor health care environment suffers from the hiring of poor quality and inexperienced nurses. Increased incidence of cross infections, more patient injuries are being reported and adverse surgery outcomes are some of the social effects of migration ( Buchan, 2003).

The nursing profession could have prevented the reliance with the highly skilled and qualified migrants; if in the first place, the right objectives were settled. As Dr. Josefina Tuazon (2012), the former dean of the University of the Philippines said, “If they want to take up nursing because they think they have the aptitude and inclination to become a nurse, irrespective of going abroad, irrespective of earning dollars, then go. We need nurses like that. In other words – take nursing for the right reason”. Eventually, those who have the most sincere objectives for the nursing profession are the ones who stay and remain in the field, while the others move otherwise. However, the chronic condition of brain drain is already eating up the profession at present and interventions will have to be initiated.


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