The number of Philippine-educated nurses that took the US licensure exam for the first time in 2022 was the highest in 14 years, a lawmaker said Sunday.
A total of 18,617 nursing graduates from the Philippines took the US licensure examination in hopes of practicing their profession in the United States, Quezon City Rep. Marvin Rillo, vice chairperson of the House committee on higher and technical education, said in a news release.
“In 2022, we had the highest number of Philippine-educated nurses taking the NCLEX in 14 years, in terms of first-time takers,” Rillo said, citing figures from the US National Council of State Boards of Nursing Inc. (USNCSBN).
The USNCSBN administers the National Council Licensure Examination, or the NCLEX, for registered nurses in America.
With this development, Rillo renewed his call for Congress to invest in more compensation funding to retain Filipino nurses in public hospitals and to discourage some of them from leaving the country.
Rillo has been batting for the passage of House Bill No. 5276, which seeks to boost by 75 percent – from P36,619 to P63,997 – the lowest base pay of nurses employed by the government.
Under his bill, the minimum base pay of nurses in public health institutions would be raised by six notches to Salary Grade 21 prescribed under the Salary Standardization Law of 2019.
The 18,617 represents a surge of 90 percent from the 9,788 Filipino nursing graduates that took the NCLEX for the first time in 2021, without counting repeaters, Rillo said.
“The number of Philippine nursing graduates taking the NCLEX for the first time is a reliable indicator as to how many of them are eagerly looking for employment in America,” he said.
Meanwhile, the latest numbers from the USNCSBN show that a total of 4,318 nursing graduates from India also took the NCLEX for the first time in 2022, along with 1,816 graduates from South Korea.
A total of 1,326 nurses educated in Puerto Rico and 1,264 nurses schooled in Nigeria also took the NCLEX for the first time last year, along with 540 nurses trained in Kenya.
Earlier, the Filipino Nurses United (FNU) called on the International Labor Organization-High Level Tripartite Mission (ILO-HLTM) to investigate possible violations of work standards in the nursing profession in the country.
In a statement on Sunday, FNU said it consulted several nurse administrators from various healthcare facilities who told them that nurses suffer from understaffing, having to handle around 20 to 50 patients and work for 12 to 16 hours without overtime pay.
“This is in contrast to the Department of Health (DOH) nurse-to-patient ratio standard of 1 nurse to 12 patients per duty shift in a general ward (patients requiring a minimum level of care),” the group said.
FNU also said about 36,000 government nurses are contractual workers.
With their contracts renewable only in six months to one year, the nurses are discouraged from being vocal about their grievances and from joining associations or unions for fear of not being rehired or arbitrarily terminated, the FNU said.
“Labor standards on work hours, nurse to patient ratio, and security of tenure are basic nurses’ rights that have been violated. This sad plight has led to further massive migration of nurses to other countries which offer better pay and work conditions,” FNU said.
“It is in this light that FNU is seeking the intervention of ILO-HLTM on freedom of association and protection of the right to organize Convention 87,” it added.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Nurses Association expressed concern over the pirating of Filipino nursing students by some European countries.
PNA president Melvin Miranda said some European nations were aggressive in the recruitment of Filipino nursing students by offering scholarship grants.
“We truly support internationalization. However, we need to safeguard the implementing rules and regulations. That’s why we are calling for a dialogue or certainly a discussion on this matter since this is very alarming,” he told the ANC news channel.
Reports said foreign countries are offering “competitive” packages to second-year nursing students, which include tuition and lodging.
In the Philippines, private hospitals pay their nurses between P9,000 and P15,000, Miranda noted. Meanwhile, entry-level nurses in public hospitals start with a monthly salary of P33,000.
In a press briefing last week, Department of Health officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said the government could not prevent healthcare workers from leaving the country “because that’s their right to find more productive and bigger pay.”
The agency has proposed to Congress to standardize the salaries of nurses in public and private hospitals.
The DOH also aims to improve the benefits for healthcare workers and provide more scholarships.