Is the government tailor-fitting the country’s nursing sector to the demands of the U.S. market? The secretary-general of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), Dr. Gene Nisperos, has posed this question following statements by government officials that the Arroyo administration is amenable to having the June 2006 nursing board examination passers be subjected to a possible third retake, as requested by the U.S.-based Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS).
BY PHILIP PARAAN
Contributed to Bulatlat
Is the government tailor-fitting the country’s nursing sector to the demands of the U.S. market?
The secretary-general of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), Dr. Gene Nisperos, has posed this question following statements by government officials that the Arroyo administration is amenable to having the June 2006 nursing board examination passers be subjected to a possible third retake, as requested by the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS), a non-profit organization that screens foreign nurse applicants for visa certificates in the United States
In an announcement posted Feb. 14 on the CGFNS website, CGFNS chief executive officer Barbara Nichols said that the passers of the June 2006 nursing board examinations who intend to apply for VisaScreen Certificates should undergo a retake equivalent of Tests 3 and 5 – the portions of the nursing board examination affected by last year’s leakage scandal, and obtain a passing score.
U.S. immigration laws require the CGFNS to come up with decisions in cases like this. In this case, because passers of the June 2006 Philippine nursing licensure exam were found to have licenses that were “not comparable to a U.S. nursing license,” the Board was required to determine that a VisaScreen Certificate may not be issued to such individuals, Nichols said. However, they “gladly accept” the passing test scores of any nurse “who had the courage” to re-take the licensure exam – in whole or in part – in December 2006, Nichols added.
“CGFNS raises no question of their lawful right to practice nursing in the Philippines. U.S. immigration law, however, requires CGFNS to make a determination as part of the VisaScreen process about several elements of the visa applicants’ education, training, license and experience – including their comparability to U.S. nurses,” Nichols said. “Finally, it should be noted that some stories in the Philippine media have confused the VisaScreen Certificate – issued pursuant to U.S. immigration law – with the CGFNS Certification Program (CP), which is provided to facilitate the licensure of foreign-educated nurses in the majority of U.S. States. The VisaScreen Certificate is required of all foreign-national nurses who seek occupational visas under U.S. immigration law – regardless of which State in the United States that they intend to practice.”
The announcement explicitly noted that applicants would not be eligible for the said visa certificates unless they comply with the retest order.
The official testing agency clarified that this requirement for re-examination does not try to revoke any professional license but is a matter of immigration requirement to obtain a working visa. The CGFNS explained this requirement is part of Section 343 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996.
Labor export policy
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has instructed Labor Secretary Arturo Brion to appeal this decision before the CGFNS. The government right now is worried that other nurse-receiving countries might follow suit and request a similar retake on the questioned areas of the test, government spokespersons said.
In a subsequent update posted Feb. 24 on the CGFNS website, however, Nichols said the CGFNS decision was final, precluding any possibility of appeal.
No less than Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez has said that the Arroyo administration is willing to have the passers of the June 2006 nursing board examination retake the tests. This, he said, shows that the Philippines recognizes the request of the U.S. market. “(The retake) has nothing to do with the Philippine policy on these nurses anyway,” Gonzalez said.
Nisperos has hit the Arroyo government for giving in easily to the request for a retake of the June 2006 nursing board examinations for prospective VisaScreen applicants.
“Our government is now begging the U.S. to allow our nurses gain entry and work in the states, instead of addressing the mass exodus of nurses which is detrimental to our health system, and the reasons why they leave in the first place,” he said. “This is labor export to the hilt, mindlessly and shamelessly selling our nurses abroad and the way our government has been scrambling to please U.S. market demands, as if our whole nursing sector is now being tailor-fit to the need of America and no longer for our own people’s health.”
As of 2006, a nurse working in the United Kingdom, for example, sends home at least $1,000 a month based on data provided by Patricia Riingen, vice president of Western Union Philippines. In the U.S., nurses are estimated to earn around an average of US$ 4,000-6,000 a month.
Conversely, a nurse in the Philippines gets some P5,500-P16,000 ($113.94-$331.46 at an exchange rate of $1=P48.27) a month.
The Philippine Nurses Association led by it president Dr. Leah Paquiz is now trying to organize the whole nursing community to find ways to resolve this crises, which she describes as the worst to have ever hit the nursing profession.
“The U.S. has been poaching our nurses for decades and in droves, and a nursing education has long been seen as a ticket out,” Nisperos said, “This is (a crisis) of commercialized nursing education. In the end, it is compromising our own health care, which many believe is already precariously on the brink of collapse. Contributed to(Bulatlat.com)