Jobless nurses urged to serve provinces
BAGUIO CITY—-Now that jobs abroad have become scarce for Filipino nurses, their next option is to bring that “tender loving care,” for which they have become cherished in foreign hospitals, back to the provinces where they are most needed.
Senior nurses and health workers celebrated this year’s International Nurses Day on May 12 by exploring why health practitioners in the last 10 years have lost the passion for rural service, having set their sights on high-paying jobs abroad.
Erlinda Caster Palaganas, a senior adviser to the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA), said new health workers could regain that passion for service by working in remote villages in the country.
“Tender loving care is ‘tatak nurse’ (nurse’s trademark). It is something you may not find in other professions. Care is the most abstract [task] of the nursing profession because they are able to provide psychological, spiritual and emotional [service] to their patients,” Palaganas told reporters here on Friday.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona, during a May 9 news conference here, advised incoming college students to momentarily avoid taking nursing courses because the unstable world economy has left 200,000 Filipino nurses without jobs.
The demand may resume once the economic and political situations in different parts of the world stabilize, Ona said.
He gave assurances that the government was looking for ways to increase its budget for hiring more nurses. The 2011 budget, he said, had provisions for hiring 10,000 nurses for deployment to the provinces.
Officials of the PNA said work in the provinces will always be available for nurses.
“We need to produce doctors and nurses who are [dedicated]. We have observed that health workers now are impatient and not compassionate [when attending to patients in local hospitals]. There is no more ‘tender loving care’ because most of them think about going abroad,” said Lily Bimuyag, senior nurse of the Department of Health (DOH) in the Cordillera.
According to Palaganas, health workers are confronted by poor working conditions and low salaries in the country.
Senior health workers in the Cordillera said “care” is a value so complex that it can not be broken down into lesson plans by nursing and medical schools.
But Palaganas said schools could provide future nurses and health workers proper role models whom they can emulate when they treat or attend to patients.
Assigning young health workers to poor communities could also inspire them once they see the condition of health care in remote areas.
“When you work in the barrios, you will develop that caring, that passion because you see reality,” Palaganas said.
But young nurses who decide to take this option must be prepared for a hard journey.
Caridad Binwag, head of the DOH Cordillera human resource management and development service, said doctors who are assigned to the barrios are provided enough information about their places of assignment.
“Even fresh graduates would undergo community immersion and we monitor them. We tell them the mission and the vision of serving communities. But after a while, [they] would drop out [of the program] because they would be assigned to [remote villages],” she said.
Assistant Secretary Elmer Punzalan said the DOH’s other option to provide employment to nurses and other health workers is to market the quality of Philippine health care.
Punzalan handles the department’s international medical travel and wellness projects. He told the Inquirer that Filipino nurses had earned a good reputation overseas for their empathy, manners and skills. Thus, advertising to foreign patients that they can come and seek medical attention in the Philippines, may help boost medical tourism.
“In many of my speeches, I always say that nurses in the Philippines should be drawing people who need to be cured,” Punzalan said.
However, coordinating an advertising program with the Department of Tourism will take time, he said.
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