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Nurses in limbo, take call center jobs

Nurses in limbo, take call center jobs

By Margaux Ortiz

Published on Page A1 of the October 11, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

THE GOOD NEWS is that a number of those who passed the June nursing licensure examination have found jobs, but the bad news is that some of them are now call center agents, research assistants -- and nurses on probation.

“We come from reputable schools. We believed that hospitals would not think twice in accepting us,” 21-year-old Joanna Espinoza of the University of the Philippines College of Nursing said at a press conference in Manila on Monday.

Espinoza and 17 other graduates of UP, University of the East-Ramon Magsaysay (UERM), University of Santo Tomas and Far Eastern University gathered at the conference hall of the UP College of Nursing to appeal for a retake of the tainted board exam.

According to Espinoza, almost half of her class sought jobs at call centers after hospitals refused to act on their applications pending the decision of the Court of Appeals on the cheating controversy.

Espinoza, who had also worked at a call center after graduation, said she would go back to her job if hospitals continued to turn away nursing applicants belonging to Batch 2006.

“I tried applying at the Philippine General Hospital, where my classmates and I served as trainees in college, but PGH did not give me a schedule for an interview,” she said, adding that she had been experiencing depression because of her situation.

On probation

But not all the board passers had difficulty finding a job.

Joy Delfin, 21, a graduate of Angeles University Foundation (AUF) College of Nursing in Pampanga province, said many of the board passers were “manning” hospitals in Angeles City.

“I was accepted at AUF as a nurse shortly after the release of the board exam results,” said Delfin, No. 12 of the Top 20 passers.

But she was accepted on a probationary basis because she had yet to be issued a nursing license.

“We are afraid that we will be removed from our jobs if the government orders a retake of the board exam,” she said.

Delfin spoke with the Inquirer during a rally yesterday at Liwasang Bonifacio park in Manila, where around 500 nursing graduates from various parts of Luzon and their parents assembled to make public their “no retake” stance.

According to Delfin, a retake would mean additional expenses for her and other members of her batch.

She said her family had spent P25,000 for her enrollment at two different review centers prior to the June exam.

“The solution to the stigma that the pro-retake group has been amplifying is to prosecute the guilty and not to punish us,” Delfin said.

Research assistants

Another UP graduate, John Stuart Pancho, said he and four of his classmates had been working as research assistants because of the lack of job opportunities.

“We are consoled only by the fact that our research work involves health issues,” Pancho said.

Toni Rose Gepiala, also a graduate of the UP College of Nursing, was fortunate to be accepted as a nurse trainee at a diagnostic clinic.

But Gepiala said her work mostly involved clerical tasks because she was “prohibited” from performing the duties of a registered nurse, such as administering injections, for lack of a license.

Patricia Batac of UERM said only a retake of the exam would banish the “cloud of suspicion” that had been hanging over those who took the June exam.

“We have to move on with our lives and plan our future,” said the still jobless Batac.

‘Suspended reality’

She added: “We cannot do this with everyone doubting us because of the supposed leakage of test questions.”

Rolando Samson, father of AUF nursing graduate and board passer Zhrissa Charisma Samson, traveled from the family home in Pampanga’s Mabalacat town to Liwasang Bonifacio to back the call against a retake.

Samson said he and his wife had shelled out P40,000 for their eldest child’s review expenses.

“We are depending on our children to help us secure our future,” he said in Filipino. “Now it seems we are in suspended reality.”

Samson, 50, said he worked long hours selling cars, houses and lots seven days a week to help his daughter achieve her dream of becoming a nurse.

He said that despite the expensive course and with three other children enrolled in college, he always made sure Zhrissa paid her tuition on time.

Sending her to nursing school was difficult, especially because the family lost everything to Mt. Pinatubo’s lahar avalanches, which claimed their village of San Joaquin in Mabalacat in 1992.

“Talagang maragul ing kasakitan (Our sacrifices were really big),” Samson told the Inquirer in Angeles City.

As many as 305 other AUF nursing graduates passed the board exam. Two members of the batch made it to the ninth slot in the Top 10, and 43 others were among the Top 20.

‘Not the solution’

“A retake is not the solution to the so-called integrity of the exam or of the nursing profession. The solution is to punish those who are behind the leakage. Why make our children the sacrificial lambs?” Samson said.

“Assuming there really was a leakage, the competency of nursing graduates cannot be solely measured by a one-time licensure exam. They hurdled four years of rigorous training. They would not pass the course if they were not competent,” he said.

Samson said the AUF’s standing in the academic community -- the ninth among 360 nursing schools nationwide in 2005 -- spoke enough of its credibility.

Joy Delfin said she and her colleagues did not benefit from the leak: “We took the exam fairly and squarely.”

She said that while her parents, public school teachers Juanito and Angelita Delfin, could not join her at the rally because they were at work, they were also against a retake.

Delfin completed her nursing course on scholarship at AUF. Six days a week, she negotiated the dusty lahar fields of Barangay Manibaug in Porac town to get to school.

“We really gave our best, and [the government] should not take away our success in that exam,” she said. “We did not cheat.”

She also said a retake would “heighten the stigma, not reduce it.”

Joint statement

In a joint statement, the AUF graduates and their parents called on the government to prosecute and punish those who would be found guilty of taking part and benefiting from the cheating.

They also appealed to the Board of Nursing, the Professional Regulation Commission and the Association of Deans of Philippine Colleges of Nursing to uphold their first decision that a retake was not mandatory. With a report from Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon


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