by Cynthia De Castro/Asianjournal.com)
LOS ANGELES — Filipinos have turned the USA’s shortage in caregivers to their advantage in the last decade. Tens of thousands of Filipino nurses have immigrated to the US to fill in dire positions in hospitals across the country. Staffing agencies in the Philippines and the US say the largest market is California where the nursing shortage is most acute, having fewer nurses per capita than every State except Nevada.
The shortage has led hospitals to offer very attractive compensation packages to nurses, leading even medical doctors in the Philippines to pursue careers in nursing here.
With the US nurses getting older, many predicted that the nursing crunch would only get worse. But a recent study predicted that renewed efforts by nursing schools could make the nursing shortage history within 10 years.
According to a research recently released by the University of California-San Francisco’s Center for California Health Workforce Studies, the number of nursing school graduates has increased by 73 percent during the past five years.
“If policymakers can sustain the growth in nursing programs that they’ve achieved, the nursing shortage will be solved over the next 10 to 15 years,” lead researcher Joanne Spetz said.
However, the 2006 Board of Registered Nurses report stated that 45 percent of nurses with active California licenses are over 50 years old, meaning that when these huge number of nurses retire, relief may not be looming in the horizon.
To answer the problem, the California Governor’s Office launched a program in 2005 that included $90 million for expanding student enrollment in nursing degrees. Colleges such as UCLA and UC-Irvine have opened nursing baccalaureate programs. And junior colleges — which educate roughly two-thirds of the State’s nurses — have invested more in their programs.
But another problem is that nursing instructors have been particularly difficult to find. With wages as high as ever for nurses — the average nurse in California made $73,542 in 2006 — many nurses have chosen to practice nursing over teaching. Thus, the problem remains in finding enough teachers who want to leave behind nursing to instruct nursing hopefuls.
With a healthcare system that is desperate for nurses and a school system that lacks the resources to educate and train would-be nurses, the nursing shortage problem seems to have no solution in sight.
But Spetz remains optimistic. She said that with wages so high, she sees no shortage of interest in nursing. However, an earlier research she did in 2003 suggested that wages will decrease as the shortage declines.
Shown the UCSF’s new report by Asian Journal, Noreen, a nurse in Manila who just passed the NCLEX exam in Hongkong and waiting for her papers from the US, commented, “This nursing shortage in the US has been working to our advantage so we should act quickly and efficiently. As the cliche goes, we should make hay while the sun shines. Habang bukas ang pinto- pumasok tayo di ba? (While the door is open, let’s enter in, right?) Now, whether or not it is true that the shortage will be over in ten years, I believe we should just focus on the present opportunity. A lot can happen in ten years.”