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Address the root cause of leakage scandal

Address the root cause of leakage scandal

Last updated 01:54am (Mla time) 09/12/2006

Published on page A14 of the September 12, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

AS the clamor continues for a swift, just and thorough resolution to the nursing leakage controversy, we call on colleagues in the nursing and education professions, as well as concerned officials and organizations, to address the issue beyond the leakage.

The controversy highlighted the concerns we had raised even before it erupted: the mushrooming of schools (with sub-standard quality, lack of clinical facilities, inexperienced teachers), the adoption of unethical and unacceptable practices by schools, review centers etc., and the phenomenon of doctors-becoming-nurses which has led to the closure of some health facilities in underserved communities. Nursing education today generally has more eyes for profits than for a long-term, more sustainable production of properly trained nurses. The only way to go is to enhance the quality of nursing education so that the interest of the international market is sustained.

On the local side, this kind of education threatens "safe" nursing practice. The turnover rate of nurses is such that the quality of services has gone down. With the higher number of graduates, we may feel an oversupply of nurses, but there is, in reality, a shortage in experienced nurses. Such a situation has lead to further exploitation of nurses.

I had hoped that the affected hospitals would induce their nurses to stay by improving their compensation system and putting in place a retention package. Initially, they did but after a year or two, as soon as hospitals realized there were so many new graduate nurses, the situation worsened. Unfilled-up regular positions became a common thing that led to an increase in nurse-patient ratio as hospitals began recruiting "volunteer" nurses who paid for the experience to fill in the gap.

The leakage was bound to happen with so many schools trying to improve their passing rate through any means without addressing the very thing they should be doing-the internal improvement of their own system to bring about optimum education. This also brought about the proliferation of unscrupulous review centers. It should be noted that it is normal practice for review centers to pay deans and schools an amount per student. Even in placement of graduates, schools profit. Schools are now more in the business of nursing. Thus, it becomes a vicious cycle, yet the root cause is not being addressed.

What is the root cause? Failure to regulate the opening, operation and finally closing down of schools by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). With its recommendatory role, the Professional Regulation Commission also shares part of the responsibilities. The situation is hopeful. For a long time, the calls and efforts to stem the tide fell on deaf ears and blind eyes. It helps that the whole world and media are focusing on nurses. Now, we can address the real issues.

JOSEFINA A. TUAZON, dean, College of Nursing, University of the Philippines - Manila, Pedro Gil Street, Ermita, Manila

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