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RP lost 48,000 nurses to US alone in 10 years

CEBU CITY — The Philippines has lost almost 48,000 registered nurses to the United States alone in 10 years, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) said.

A total of 47,683 nurses educated in the Philippines were first-time takers of the US National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) from 1995 to 2004, according to former senator and TUCP secretary-general Ernesto Herrera.

"While only 23,608 of them, or roughly 50 percent, passed the NCLEX-RN and qualified for admission to the US nursing profession right away, we reckon those who initially failed the examination either made the grade when they repeated the test, or simply became vocational or licensed practical nurses there," Herrera said.

According to the US National Council of State Boards of Nursing, the number of people passing the NCLEX-RN "is a reliable indicator of how many new nurses, including those educated internationally, are entering the profession in the US."

"We must stress that the numbers, which translate to 4,800 yearly, do not include Filipino nurses who left for Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere," Herrera said.

The former senator's disclosure came shortly after Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya bared a government plan to spend some P43 billion annually over the next four years to augment the salaries of public sector nurses, doctors and teachers, in a bid to stem their exodus to greener pastures abroad.

However, Herrera said, "Government is simply not in a position to prevent the migration of Filipino nurses and other highly skilled professionals to more lucrative job markets overseas."

He added: "We've said this before, and we will say this again. In a free economy and increasingly borderless world, skilled labor will instinctively seek the greatest reward, in the same manner that investors will take their money to wherever it will get the best return."

A nurse in the US could easily earn $ 6,000 or P312,000 monthly, without counting health insurance and other benefits, Herrera pointed out.

"US Hospitals and other healthcare providers, strained by an aging American population and migrants from Mexico, are definitely bidding up the wages of Filipino and other foreign-educated nurses," he said.

Herrera said Canada, India, South Korea and even the United Kingdom have also been losing nurses to the US.

In the 10-year period under review, he said a total of 15,157 Canadians; 6,863 Indians; 6,341 South Koreans; and 2,922 Britons were first-time takers of the NCLEX-RN.

The Philippines has been sending overseas some 15,000 nurses annually, more than any other country, according to the World Health Organization.


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