15,000 Pinoy nurses sought US jobs in 2006

More than 15,000 new Filipino nurses sought employment in the United States last year, former senator and labor leader Ernesto Herrera disclosed over the weekend.

Herrera said a total of 15,171 Filipinos took the US National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) for nurses for the first time (excluding repeaters) from January to December 2006.

This represents an increase of 5,990 or 65 percent compared to the 9,181 Filipinos that took the NCLEX for the first time in the whole of 2005, according to Herrera, secretary-general of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP).

The former senator said the 2006 NCLEX statistics reaffirmed the Philippines’ position as the foremost supplier of foreign nurses in the US.

He said the Philippines easily topped the five countries with the highest number of first-time NCLEX examinees in 2006. India came second, with 4,395 examinees; followed by South Korea, 2,145; Canada, 943; and Cuba, 537.

Passing the NCLEX is usually the final step in the nurse licensure process in the US. Thus, the number of people taking the examination is a good indicator of how many new US-educated as well as foreign-trained nurses are trying to enter the profession in the US, according to the US National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

The TUCP has been pushing the deployment of surplus nurses and other highly skilled workers to lucrative job markets abroad.

“Our position is, if we must boldly pursue the export of services, we might as well purposely encourage the deployment of highly skilled laborers such as nurses,” said Herrera, former chairman of the Senate labor and employment committee.

“Nursing skills are not readily replaceable. This is why we seldom come across cases of employers taking advantage of, or abusing nurses. In fact, Filipino nurses overseas are pampered by their employers,” he said.

He added: “We must consciously discourage the overseas deployment of relatively unskilled workers such as domestic helpers. Their skills are easily replaceable. This is why they are undeniably far more susceptible to employer abuse.”

Herrera earlier rejected proposed new legislation that seeks to require nurses who obtained government-subsidized schooling to render two years of compulsory local service before they can leave for overseas employment.

The former senator was referring to House Bill 5791, which seeks to oblige nursing graduates of state colleges and universities to perform 24 months of service here before they may be lawfully recruited to work abroad.

“We regard the bill as highly prejudicial and absolutely unnecessary, considering the massive oversupply of nurses locally,” he pointed out.

Last year alone, Herrera noted that the Professional Regulation Commission admitted to the local nursing profession a total of 37,533 candidates who passed licensure examination.

“Of this number, only about 2,000 will find gainful work here, either in government or the private sector. So we definitely have a large surplus of nurses,” he said. (PNA)

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