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RP nurses seeking US jobs soar nearly 50% to 15,000 in 9 months

The number of Filipino nurses seeking gainful employment in the United States has soared almost 50 percent, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) disclosed recently.

TUCP spokesperson Alex Aguilar said that from January to September last year, a total of 15,083 Philippine-educated nurses sought to practice their profession in America by taking for the first time the eligibility test of the US National Council of State Boards of Nursing Inc. (NCSBN).

This represents an increase of 4,793 (or 47 percent) compared to the 10,290 Filipino nurses who took the NCLEX first time (that is, non-repeaters) in the same nine-month period in 2006, according to Aguilar.

Citing NCSBN statistics, Aguilar said the 15,083 who took the NCLEX in the nine months to September in 2007 just about matched the 15,171 Filipino nurses who braved the examination for the first time in the entire 12 months of 2006.

The NCLEX, or National Council Licensure Examination, is the final step in the nurse eligibility process in the US -- the equivalent of the Philippines’ nursing licensure test.

Aguilar said the Philippines still led the five countries with the greatest number of (non-US) nationals who took the NCLEX for the first time in the three quarters to September. India came in second, with 4,071 examinees; followed by South Korea, 1,440; Canada, 682; and Cuba, 525.

TUCP’s disclosure comes not long after the NCSBN started allowing Filipino nurses aspiring to work in America to take the NCLEX in Manila. This was in August, 2007 with the installation here of a new international test center.

Brain drain continues

The labor group earlier said it expects the number of Filipino nurses applying for US jobs and subsequently passing the NCLEX to increase significantly in the months ahead on account of "the favorable home ground testing."

Previously, Filipino nurses had to travel overseas just to take the NCLEX in test centers elsewhere in Asia and the Pacific. This created accompanying disadvantages and pressures, the foremost of which was financial. Partly owing to these past difficulties, historically, only about half of the Filipino nurses passed the test the first time they took it.

TUCP has been batting for the deployment of surplus Filipino nurses to more lucrative job markets abroad, saying that every professional is entitled to take his or her skills to wherever these would get the greatest reward.

Lured by the promise of greener pasture abroad, the number of Filipinos wanting to become nurses has grown by leaps and bounds. As of June this year, a staggering total of 632,108 students were enrolled in more than 400 Philippine nursing schools, up 30 percent or 145,875 from the 486,233 enlisted last year.

While the US has been producing its own nurses by the tens of thousands, they are still not enough to cope with the growing healthcare needs of the rapidly aging American population, including the deluge of migrants from Mexico.

Some 78 million American baby boomers -- those born between 1946 to 1964 -- now comprise 26 percent of the 300-million US population. The oldest baby boomers turned 60 last year, and they are starting to strain the US health care system. Over the last 15 years, the number of Americans visiting healthcare facilities has increased about 50 percent, to a rate of about 4,300 appointments per 100,000 population.

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