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Test scandal risks nurses’ reputation

Test scandal risks nurses’ reputation
Jun Ilagan, Aug 23, 2006

LOS ANGELES — The Philippine Nurses Association of America (PNAA) has not only expressed dismay over the alleged leakage of the nursing board exams in the Philippines last June, but also admits the scandal would have untold implications on the reputation of the country as major provider of nurses to the United States.

The worst immediate repercussion, in fact – loss of the Philippine bid to join the ranks of Hong Kong, Guam, and Saipan as an international testing center for nurses of the U.S. National Commission on Licensure Examination or NCLEX – is now, sadly enough, a foregone conclusion. At press time, word is out that the Chicago-based National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), is mothballing the country’s application for the coveted accreditation.

According to Philippine newspaper reports, the alleged leakage originated in Baguio City and later spread to Metro Manila. At least 200 questions under Sets III and V of the June 11-12 nursing board exams were reportedly leaked, prompting 92 examinees from Baguio and more than 400 practicing nurses elsewhere to file a complaint with the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) on June 21.

Prior to NCSBN’s decision, there remained some hope and optimism. During a Filipino nurses’ event in this city, hosted by the Philippine Nurses Association of Southern California (PNASC) headed by its president Josie de Jesus, PNAA immediate past president Mila Velasquez even recounted the efforts that have gone into pre-qualifying the Philippines as a NCLEX host country since March this year.

“The Philippines has proven its worthiness to be a test center for NCLEX because we have met all of the NCSBN criteria,” Velasquez told the nurses and members of FilAm media who gathered at the Philippine Consulate in downtown Los Angeles for the launch last Wednesday, August 16, of the Mentorship Program for Filipino nurses under the auspices of PNASC. The six-month mentorship program, exclusively sponsored by Western Union Financial Services, Inc., is designed to facilitate the transition of newly-arrived nurses from the Philippines to the American healthcare system.

“NCSBN at this point is just asking the PRC’s Board of Nursing, the Philippine Nursing Association, other agencies, and no less than President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself for a formal assurance that the Philippines will establish a fool-proof system designed to protect the integrity of the exams,” she added.

PNAA and PNASC members lamented, too, that the test scam could not have come at a worse time than now, when the quality of nursing education in the Philippines urgently needs to be taken off the path of continued deterioration.

The runaway proliferation of nursing schools across the Philippines due to the continuing increase in the number of enrollees — all looking at overseas employment after graduation – is not helping the country keep its status as the world’s preferred source of topnotch nursing professionals.

Needless to say, the quality of education many of these schools offer is sorely substandard.

“Right now, the education department wants to summarily close about 50 nursing schools but is being prevented by some powerful political factions,” Velasquez disclosed.

The proverbial brain drain is to be blamed, too.

“While the Philippines has been a leading exporter of nurses, the system is now suffering from an acute lack of qualified teachers because everybody has left the country,” Velasquez said. “It is true that there are deans today who manage two to three nursing schools simultaneously.”

For now, PNAA and PNASC can only find comfort in the thought that the mentorship program – initially launched for the Philippine Nurses Association of New Jersey a couple of months ago, with more launchings being planned for many of PNAA’s 35 chapters nationwide – is helping provide continuity in the supply of well-trained and competent Filipino nurses.

“I am one with you in wishing the mentorship program continued success, as well as in hoping that the scandal that now rocks the nursing education and profession in the Philippines will be resolved as soon as possible, with the culprits identified and brought to justice,” Mary Jo Bernardo Aragon, acting head of post at the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles, said.


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