Filipino Nurses as Commodities?

Nurses form the backbone of healthcare delivery.  They vowed dedication to service from the time they took their oath. But the prospects of high paying jobs abroad compromises part of the essence found in the “Nightingale Pledge.”  Many have veered away from committing to patrimonial interest and chose to stay overseas – providing care to foreign nationals.

In mitigating the short-term effects of migration, the Philippines enacted a law that prevents nurses from accepting foreign jobs without completing a mandatory patrimonial-service of at least two years.

Although fully enforced, the stance is leaning back to promoting migration for dollar remittances.  Recently, Filipino nurses were sent to Japan for retraining and eventual deployment. The Philippine Government boasts of this achievement and urges Japan to open more nursing and caregiving job opportunities for Filipinos.

Learning institutions also take part in motivating students with the allure of greener-pastures abroad and not by any patriotic or nationalistic pitches.

Nursing is not just a grueling 5-year struggle for the student but let alone expensive for the head of the family. Yet, the prospects of seeing their children landing in a good job overseas give most parents the strength to endure whatever hardships that might come their way.

Indeed, the rewards that await nurses are irresistibly tempting. There are physicians who abandoned their degrees to become nurses.

At the moment, the country is capable of producing professionals to replace those who have gone abroad. But there is a dilemma that could not be fully addressed by mere statistical equations. In terms of proficiency, new entrants may never match the competence of more experienced personnel. What could follow next is a deterioration of professionalised delivery due to lack of seniority and clinical experience.

It is quite evident how wealth and poverty factors play complementary in maintaining a steady and sound healthcare system between the country of origin and the immediate work destinations for transnational nurses. Wealth attracts people from poor countries.  They emigrate and assume jobs no matter how denigrating a profession is considered by some cultural standards.

In the Gulf States, there is a stigma attached to nursing. It is regarded as a disparaging profession not worth-pursuing and viewed as a vocation equivalent only to merely doing the works of a domestic servant. Whereas back home, everyone takes pride in this Filipino achievement.  From nurses to domestic servants, high praises are given to migrant workers because they remit dollars and come in big numbers in terms of statistical headcounts.

But regardless how the world perceives it, anecdotal evidence shows that Filipino migrant workers are excellent servants – giving the masters a good reason why they prefer Filipinos over other nationalities.

Outright, one could readily conclude that the present mechanics of foreign supply and demand for Filipino nurses are smoothly in place.  Clients are satisfied with the nursing services and the nurses are getting better wages for their efforts.

But over the long term, a bigger chunk of the danger is hoisted upon the host country, particularly if it gets too overwhelmed by its capability to procure nursing services from foreign countries.  For one, it could cause its educational system to relax till it becomes completely incapable of producing competent healthcare professionals.

There are unforeseeable occurrences that could also trigger a mass repatriation or re-emigration, exposing many lives to the threat of nursing staff shortage.  Among these could be:  acts of war, economic depression, changes in the law of supply and demand, etc.

Obviously, there are heavy economic considerations affixed to the profession that diminish the prudent nursing values of altruism, humanism, dedication, and sacrifice. Advancing the ideals of ‘service to humanity’ is increasingly becoming more difficult because there are political and socio-economic influences which tend to bypass some of the human values that are important to us. Consequently, it will have to stay that way for so long as nurses are counted as commodities and items in a bilateral negotiation.


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