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Nursing: open season for other professions

Nursing: open season for other professions

A recent phenomenon in the nursing profession is the invasion of its ranks by so-called nursing medics—doctors-turned-nurses.

Now, not only physicians but graduates from other courses are taking up nursing, most of the career shifts motivated by economic factors. We now have “nursing mechanics,” “nursing clerics,” even “nursing biologists.”

Their ages cover practically the entire range from post-teens to pre-senility.

And all of them have their sights trained on overseas nursing jobs which pay from $3,000 to $5,000 monthly.

For Dr. Elmer Reyes Jacinto, it was a round trip from being a nurse to becoming a physician, and then going back to nursing.

Jacinto, a nursing graduate of the Western Mindanao State University in Zamboanga, was working as a nurse in Lamitan, Basilan, before he pulled up stakes and enrolled at the Our Lady of fatima University Valenzuela City. He topped the medical board exams after graduation in 2004.

But he didn’t practice medicine. He went to New York, where he now works as a nurse.

Quite predictably, most of those who shift to nursing are practitioners in allied professions. They hold degrees in biology, medical technology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, midwifery, and dentistry.

Surprisingly, however, graduates of business courses have also made inroads into the nursing profession, according to statistics from the Board of Nursing of the Professional Regulation Commission. Since 2004 a total of 273 graduates of business administration, accountancy and commerce have gone into nursing.

The list of nurse-wannabes includes graduates of courses not even remotely related to nursing. A sampler: Christian education, computer science, mass communications, economics, journalism, political science, theology, agro-forestry, agriculture, criminology, fisheries, geology, marine biology and mining engineering.

To illustrate the pendulum arc in the age department. Dr. Femy Octaviano, head of the PRC’s Board of Nursing, recounts that during one interview for doctors making the switch, two people came in: a young woman and her father.

“We thought we would be interviewing the daughter. It was the father making the shift.”

She says the doctor was a consultant at a major hospital. He took up nursing because he wanted to put up a Philippine-based nursing home. And since he was also a registered nurse, he wanted to be the chief nurse of the home.

Data from the PRC show that some 4,000 doctors-turned-nurses have already left the country,” says Dr. Kenneth Ronquillo, head of the Department of Health’s health and human resource development division, in an article in the Business Mirror. “About 4,000 more are studying nursing. Should they pass the board examination for nurses, they are likely to leave the country as well.”

Around 80 percent of government physicians have taken up or are enrolled in nursing, coming from all kinds of specialization, reports former Health Secretary Dr. Jaime Galvez-Tan, a professor at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine.

Their ages range from 25 to 65, with years of practice as physicians ranging from 0 to 38 years. Most of them are females, says Galvez-Tan.

There has been a downtrend on the applicants for the National Medical Admission Test from some 6,000 in 2000 to only 2,900 in 2005. Dr. Jose Sabili, president of the Philippine Medical Association, attributes this trend to the “low return on investment” in the medical profession.

While medical students pay tuition of P100,000 per semester for at least eight semesters, the salaries of doctors range from only P17,000 to P21,000. As nurses abroad, they could easily earn up to $5,000 a month.

As a result, the Philippines is starting to reap the negative consequences, the Business Mirror report quotes Galvez-Tan. He says 200 hospitals have already closed for lack of doctors and nurses, and another 800 are “partially closed,” meaning at least one of their wards have been shut for lack of health personnel.

--Katrice R. Jalbuena


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