On Facebook, nurses cry quietly for better deal
Wonder not if you see the face of Florence Nightingale in the Facebook accounts of your online nurse friends.
A silent campaign is ongoing in the Internet to protest the exploitation and abuse of Filipino nurses by Philippine hospitals.
Florence Nightingale, considered the founder of modern nursing, has become a symbol of the campaign, dubbed “May 12 Movement.” Nightingale was born on May 12, 1820, a day that has been declared as International Nurses Day since 1965.
Jeff Burce, registered nurse and lecturer in nursing review centers, said not many nurses are aware of May 12 being International Nurses Day. He said many others are gripped by apathy toward the current working conditions of Filipino nurses.
On May 1, Burce and nurse Weanne Estrada, 22, from Silang Cavite, launched the Facebook page, ‘Stop the Exploitation of Filipino Nurses,’ creating a buzz in the online community of Filipino nurses.
Estrada, who topped the nursing board exams in December 2010, said she, too, is protesting unfair labor practices in the nursing profession.
‘Rolling cotton balls’
“Nurses are overworked but underpaid. Or worse, they have to pay just to get themselves overworked,” Burce said.
He said currently, a nurse earns an average monthly salary of P6,000-P8,000 when a nurse’s salary should be at least P15,000 a month as mandated by law. In some private hospitals in Mindanao, a chief nurse earns only about P4,500 a month.
“In other countries, the ratio of a nurse to patients is 1:6. But here, it’s 1:40. They are overworked,” Burce said.
But a low salary is better than not getting paid at all. Or worse, when the nurse has to burn his own pocket for a three-month training program that hospitals require for employment. The practice is referred to as “volunteerism for a fee” because the nurses are asked to pay training fees that range from P3,000 to P10,000.
Burce said paying for training would be justified “if they were for a specialty (course).” “But they are not,” he said.
“Trainees are often assigned in wards rolling cotton balls or folding gauze. We are already taught these back in schools,” said Burce.
Estrada said while hospital training is necessary, it seems to have become a practice of private hospital owners to employ nurses as “on-the-job-trainees,” instead of as regular employees, because it is cheaper for the business.
“Hospitals are also now the ones earning from the nurses, rendering their free service. We don’t need certificates of training, but certificates of employment,” she said.
Estrada said the movement is in support of a resolution introduced by Sen. Pia Cayetano in 2010 to investigate “the alleged exploitive practice of some hospitals.”
They are also getting in touch with several nursing groups, such as the Philippine Nursing Association and the Board of Nursing of the Professional Regulation Commission, to help abolish the volunteerism scheme.
“This is still scratching the surface and we have a long way to go. (And) it is a lonely battle when some nurses continue to be indifferent,” Burce said.
He said with the online movement, they hoped more people would be aware of the exploitation of Filipino nurses in their own country.
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