THE decision of the Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC) that this year’s nursing board passers need not retake their exams after the leakage controversy, and that 90 of the 100 questions in the exam’s given-away Test V would just be voided, will do little in redeeming the sullied integrity of the country’s nursing profession.

At first, the PRC was open to an optional retake for those who took the exam, provided they sign a waiver nullifying the previous test. But later, PRC discarded 90 of the 100 questions under Test V on Psychiatric Nursing, where answers had been leaked, and just incorporated the remaining 10-questions scores into the final average. This resulted in a 1.18 per cent increase in the original 41.24 per cent passing rate.

Although the number of passers increased by 499, the reduced weight of the questions accounted to only 80 per cent of the total. Lowering the bar of considered points only lowered the bar of excellence of our nurses.

The leakage has adversely affected the credibility of Filipino nurses and the Philippine nursing profession here and abroad. The Chicago-based National Commission for State Boards of Nursing in the US (NCSBN) has deferred indefinitely the nomination of the country as a testing center for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), an entry level exam for nurses wishing to practice in the US. Prior to the leakage, NCSBN listed the Philippines as a new NCLEX testing site, next to Asian neighbors Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan and Indonesia.

Employment prospects for the June 2006 nurses are also bleak. Batch 2006 complains of discrimination from local hospitals that have refused to admit them due to the scandal. Many hospitals have said they will not accept nurses who took the leakage-tainted exam for legal reasons, while trainees from the same batch were reportedly kicked off from work after patients refused to receive nursing care from them.

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Left out by its former partners in the cause, only UST and the Association of Nursing Schools in the Philippines continue to demand for a free retake of the examination.

Despite the huge opposition, an examination retake is still the best course of action that would give the examinees the opportunity to once and for all banish the stigma caused by the leakage. The Philippine Nurses Association of America has already expressed interest in shouldering the expenses of the retake, which would cost around P900 each examinee.

There is no reason to fear the retake, if one really believes one has passed the June exam neither by luck nor by leak. It’s not a punishment but a chance to prove one’s competence. It’s a chance to redeem the nation’s credibility as an important training center in the health-care profession.

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