AFTER two years in career limbo, Eudel Tan, a UST College of Nursing graduate, now has a chance to finally practice her profession.

One of the “victims” of the nursing board exams leak in 2006, Tan, who had to retake the test, still suffered from the stigma of the controversial leak when she applied for work.

“Even though I am a UST graduate, I still found it difficult to land a job then because of the leakage (controversy),” said Tan.

Last summer, she finally found a nursing job at a hospital in Saudi Arabia and left the country last May.

According to Nursing Dean Glenda Vargas, Thomasian nursing graduates experience difficulty landing a job not because of incompetence, but due to the limited number of visas available for them.

Despite being one of the top performing schools in nursing, Vargas said Thomasian nurses face the problem of applying for working visas abroad, particularly in the United States.

“We have many nurses who have pending applications abroad. When visas are already available, only (a certain number of applicants) are able to leave (the country) and the rest are left here,” Vargas told the Varsitarian.

Last July 8, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that the demand for Filipino nurses overseas has been “slowing down” after the US, one of the top recruiters, limited the issuance of visas to prospective workers in 2006 in an apparent offshoot of the nursing board exams leakage.

The Philippine Nursing Association has blamed the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) for the decline after a report from the Commission on Audit (COA) highlighted the Ched’s failure to shut down substandard nursing schools.

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“No nursing school has ever been closed in the exercise of Ched’s regulatory authority, thereby allowing low-performing schools to continue offering the program to the detriment of their students,” the 2007 COA report said.

Vargas supported the COA findings, lamenting how some nursing schools remain operational despite having poor board exam results.

“Politics is hindering the Ched from functioning swiftly,” she said.

In November 2004, Ched, under the leadership of now UST Rector Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, O.P., closed 23 nursing schools for offering nursing programs without complying with the minimum requirements of a medical facility with 100 hospital beds per school, and at least five faculty members who are licensed nurses.

School owners appealed the Ched’s decision which was eventually overturned by Malacañang, resulting in De la Rosa’s resignation in May 2005.

Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) records showed that of the 287 schools who participated in the nursing board exams in 2005, 53 were under cluster three or unaccredited educational institutions offering a nursing program. Twenty-seven of these schools failed to produce a single licensed nurse.

The Varsitarian sought comment from Ched but the agency declined to speak on the matter.

With the continued proliferation of substandard nursing schools, the quality of nursing education and the reputation of Filipino nurses here and abroad stand to suffer “little by little,” according to Vargas.

“Filipino nurses are always looked up to abroad, but because of substandard education offered to (nursing students), foreign countries are now not assured of the quality of nurses coming from the Philippines,” Vargas said. “Ched should screen the quality of nursing education and the performance of nursing schools.”

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Nevertheless, Vargas said that despite the employment predicament of Thomasian nurses, UST is still being preferred over other nursing schools because of the time-tested education the University offers.

“Filipino families in the US would want to send their children to good schools because they know that when US hospitals recruit nurses, they always prefer graduates from schools like UST,” she said. Nikki Q. Angulo and Prinz P. Magtulis

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