NURSING
graduates from all over the country will take their much awaited
licensure exams next month. After four years of struggle to complete all
the course’s requirements and to meet the expectations and standards of
the profession, they will take the last step to becoming professional
nurses.

But their struggles will not end there because after passing the board exam, many of them will be added to the 257,296 jobless nurses in the country. They will have to wait in order to finally find a “decent” work.

The nursing profession in the country is threatened by the overpopulation of nursing schools, contractualization, and low salary.

In some hospitals, understaffing is also a problem.

Only two to three nurses per shift are tasked to do all the paperwork, medication administration, feeding of patients, and monitoring, among others, in a 30-bed ward.

According to a study of former health secretary Dr. Jaime Galvez-Tan in 2005, the nurse-patient ratio in the country could surprisingly reach 1:40 to 1:60. Even worse, one nurse has to look after 100 patients per shift, in some cases. Imagine how many patients there are with similar time required for feeding or for medication.

Fresh nursing graduates receive a starting wage rate of P12,000 per month, which is salary grade 11.

They seem lucky enough compared to some who receive a starting wage of at most P8,000 monthly, but this amount does not adhere to the provisions provided by the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002 or Republic Act (RA) 9173 which states that “the minimum base pay of nurses working in the public health institutions shall not be lower than salary grade 15,” which is P24,000.

RA 9173 said that the salary grade was set “to enhance the general welfare, commitment to service, and professionalism of nurses.”

Last May, Health Secretary Enrique Ona discouraged students in Baguio City from taking up nursing due to the huge number of unemployed nurses. But his remarks contradict the nurse-patient ratio that clearly shows a shortage of nurses in many hospitals.

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If the government would seek to boost hospitals in the country to the ideal 1:4 ratio, then the job condition of nurses would improve.

The Commission on Higher Education should continue regulating the nursing schools in the country. Aside from the passing rate, they should also look at the number of students that nursing schools are admitting because not all colleges in the country have quota or limit in the number of students they accept. This quota should be based on the capacity of facilities and the quality of education that an institution can provide.

From 2007 to 2010, UST obtained an average of 98.59 percent passing rate despite having 400 examinees. This high passing rate is achieved by providing care and good facilities to students, maintaining high standards, and employing competent and dedicated faculty.

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