A senior deputy minority leader on Monday called on the government to provide comprehensive solutions in addressing the shortage of nurses in the country.
Rep. Paul R. Daza of Northern Samar stressed the need to look at the system as a whole, including standards and licensing.
“It’s time for comprehensive solutions, including reforms in the licensure system, if we want to solve our shortage of nurses. Of course, it’s an economic issue—salaries abroad are definitely higher—but our nurses will stay for the right reasons,” he said.
Citing data, Daza said Philippine nursing schools produce about 80,000 nurses annually and about 19,000 of these choose to work abroad.
“It has long been accepted that this emigration is rooted in the quest for higher income,” he said.
“At the heart of the problem is really the search for a better life for their families. However, the solutions should be all encompassing. For one, nurses will prefer staying here in the Philippines with the right motivations, outside of higher salaries,” Daza added.
Daza also noted the low passing rate of nurses in the country’s board exams.
“For example, only 54.84 percent of examinees successfully hurdled from the licensure exam for nurses from 2017 to 2022 [PRC],” he said.
“It seems that this number alone shows a glaring disparity in how nursing schools train future nurses and what the health sector requires—or it could be that even the examination system must be revisited. We need to increase passing rate and find alternative ways of licensing,” Daza added.
It will be recalled that the Northern Samar representative, through a privilege speech last March 22, pushed for the review and possibly revamp of board exam policies which are seen as anti-student, anti-poor, and arbitrary.
“A 50 percent to 60 percent passing rate shows a lot. This means the system is not inclusive. It leaves half of the examinees feeling dejected, depriving them of the chance to practice their profession in a timelier manner,” Daza said.
The lawmaker called on the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), and its Board of Nursing to review the curricula of BS Nursing as well as the continuing education and retooling programs.
“The review should include the high cost of completing a degree and flaws in the licensure framework with its complicated, almost ‘archaic’ regulations,” Daza added.
Based on practice, a nursing student is required to undergo an “on-the-job training” (OJT) program, wherein participation is shouldered by the student.
“This practice excludes deserving students from completing their studies because the system makes it economically impossible to do so,” Daza added.
“There’s a need for system ‘overhaul.’ We need to also deepen motivation for graduates to stay and serve the country. This can be done through initiatives similar to the “Doctors to the Barrios Program,” he added.
Daza admitted that people have the right to pursue their dreams and this must be respected.
“However, it’s innate in us to prefer staying with our families. If we can come up with programs where graduates can be encouraged to serve the country even just for 4 to 5 years after graduation, then the yearly exodus will not likely lead to shortage in our own backyard,” Daza said.