EuroFilipino Journal Jan-March 2007
UK nursing seminar in the Philippines
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by Michael Duque, PNA UK President

The Philippine Nurses Association of the United Kingdom recently held a "Nursing in the UK" seminar at the Philam Life Theater in Manila. The seminar was organized by the OFW Ngayon newspaper under the able leadership of Vit Hernandez.

The seminar tackled various issues such as the Overview of the NHS, nursing practices in the UK, social life in the UK, current nursing situations and legislations, changes in the system and other practical matters that definitely gave the participants information about working as a nurse and living in the UK.

The seminar was also graced by the participation of former Labor Attaché Victor Ablan as he discussed the current labor issues and trends of nursing in the UK.

OFW Ngayon, the Philippines’ first and only newspaper which caters to the growing needs of the OFW arranged and organized the activity in coordination with PNA UK. The seminar focused on giving the participants ample information and knowledge about working in the UK either as nurses, healthcare assistants or otherwise. The UK is the second largest destination for OFW’s, hence it is timely and appropriate to adequately prepare our kababayans prior to starting their new life in the UK.

The seminar entitled "Nursing in the UK" not only focused on nursing per se but it also discussed various issues and matters concerning life and living in the UK. The day started with an overview of the NHS so as to clearly give the participants a broad perspective of the UK’s biggest employer of Filipinos. The talk progressed to the various healthcare structures governing the system. By midday, the participants were shown the various tips and tricks about surviving life in the UK. They were also asked to participate in various activities relating to social life and survival. The rest of the afternoon was then directed in discussing matters concerning nursing in the UK.

The participants were shown various videos depicting nursing in the UK and were also asked to simulate actual cost of living expenses. They were also briefed on the various factors that affect nursing practice in the UK and what are expected of OFWs. Detailed instructions about the current nursing registration system as well as the various upcoming policies and legislations affecting nursing were also discussed.

The afternoon ended with an open forum soon after Labor Attaché Victor Ablan discussed the current UK labor trend and practices. He also enumerated the various social, professional and personal duties and responsibilities of OFWs’ and what are expected of them.

Due to the success of the seminar, talks are underway to conduct another similar activity by next year. Just like this recent seminar, OFW Ngayon newspaper will again be coordinating locally and will organize the seminar, whilst PNA UK will grace the activity by again doing the lecture.

The nursing mess and controversy

The 17,000 nursing graduates who recently took the June 2006 Nursing Licensure Examinations must now be feeling greatly relieved. They have now been allowed to take their professional oath as registered nurses. But with the Court of Appeals’ decision to allow them to take their oath ending the controversy, is everything really done with?

Several months after the controversy, the issue is still hot and causes unreasonable discontent and debate. While passers, flunkers and the political surfers feast on the issue, the true victims of this shameful hullabaloo are the Filipino people and the Nursing profession.

The passers have their very own reason for resisting another re-take of the exam as the flunkers and the political hitchhikers have their own respective agendas and reason. Whatever the reasons are is beyond this author’s concern. There will always be multiple sides to the story and not two, as commonly perceived.

The matter of the nursing licensure examination (NLE) leakage tells us a lot about the various aspects relating to it. Clearly if we try to dissect the matter from the beginning, layers upon layers of unwanted cover-ups, interests and conflicts can be seen. Taking for example the Professional Regulations Commission (PRC) who administers the exam. Barely one-week after conducting the nationwide nursing examinations, rumors spread like wild-fire that the PRC’s supposedly "streamlined" and leak-proof system has leaked. PRC dismissed the issue as irrelevant and unfounded. To cover its backside, it asked the Board of Nursing to conduct an initial investigation of the matter to which the same board "concluded that there was no apparent leakage". A month later, the PRC published the results of the examinations which further fanned the already hot matter and another month thereafter, we now know that the leakage-notes came from two of the Board of Nursing members. This reminds me of the classic Mr. Bean (aka Rowan Atkinson) – purely stupid yet with class and style. At this stage, the matter already got further out-of-hand and uncontrollable.

From hereon, the matter gets messier and messier. The scandal is still fairly confined to the board of nursing, the PRC and the examinees. However through the PRC, the Board of Nursing’s premature release of the results of the examinations while investigations are still going-on is questionable. Why? Politics perhaps. This unwarranted move by the board is a classic way to let the issue die a natural death. But obviously, things did not go on as expected. The way things were dealt with was uncoordinated, without thought and without consideration. Generally, the whole reaction to the scandal is sick - from the PRC to the investigating body and everything else in between. However, there is still light at the end of the tunnel.

The battle waged by most prestigious hospitals, nursing universities and other nurse individuals to ensure that the profession’s credibility and integrity is maintained is something positive to look at. Their step in the right direction is noteworthy and commendable. While their battle is but a part of a bigger struggle to help restore credibility, decency and integrity of the nursing profession and the Filipino people, the political hitch-hikers, passers and flunkers were busy fighting a private war.

The recent conciliatory discussion held between various sectors involved in the profession is another positive move that we can all learn from. Department of Labor and Employment Secretary Arturo Brion’s suggested forward move is well-meaning and appropriate. Resolving the issues this way is far better than waging popularity contests between parties. After these vital points have been taken care of, then other equally important matters can then be addressed more efficiently and clearly.

Resolving the conflicts through the conciliatory talks has proven its pound of worth. However, the decaying logic inside the system is unable to hold its anchor with the irregularities discovered within the PRC test computations. It seems like the longer the system is ‘tested’, the more unlawful activity will be discovered.

That’s life. Political and individual interests prevail over the common good. Then again, now that the disease has surfaced, it’s about time that the powers-that-be act upon this corrosive illness that has plagued the system for some time. In the words of Mr. Apolonio Ramos (of Marikina City), the following should have been initially done as a means of cleansing the system:

1. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) should have been tasked to investigate the case and question the examiners, review centers and examinees. Meantime, the results should have been withheld, pending the results of the investigation.

2. After receiving the NBI findings, the justice secretary should have transmitted them to the President and made the proper recommendations.

3. Those found to have committed acts inimical to the fair conduct of the examinations should have been promptly charged in court.

4. If examiners were found to have been involved in the leakage, they should have been immediately removed from office (to prevent their interfering with the investigation). Administrative and criminal cases should have been filed against them.

5. All the review centers involved in the scandal should have been closed, and proper charges should have been filed against their erring officials.

6. The nursing licensure examinations should have been deemed a failure and the results nullified, nationwide. A new set of examiners should have been appointed and another licensure examination should have been scheduled, as early as October 2006, with the examinees (who took the questionable examinations) exempt from paying all the fees required.

7. Examinees who took advantage of the leaked questions should have been permanently barred from taking any nursing licensure examination thereafter.

By the way, in view of all these disgrace and humiliation, incumbent PRC Chief Leonor Tripon-Rosero should offer her voluntary resignation as a graceful means of exiting. Otherwise, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo should give her the final letter should the interest of the country, the Nursing profession, and all other professions under PRC be in her main agenda and priority. The country is sick and the Filipino people’s collective attitude, effort and sacrifices will be the cure.

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