Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Think twice before starting with a nursing course

Posted by butalidnl on 17 April 2008

Nursing courses are booming in the Philippines. People are pushing their children to take up nursing in the hope that they would be able to get a job in the US and earn a lot of money. It is getting to the point that one could say there is a “nursing bubble” in the country – too many people taking up nursing courses, resulting in a glut of nursing graduates. But whatever we may say, parents and relatives almost force their children to take up nursing – even if these children have no real aptitude or inclination to take up the course; just because it is apparently a good way to get a US-based job and lots of dollar remittances.

Now that the school year is about to start in the Philippines, the question then arises: should he/she take up a nursing course?

Yes. If the student really has a feel for nursing, and is willing (and even expecting) that she/he may be practicing the profession in the Philippines itself.

No/maybe. If the aim is to get a high-paying job in the US. Why do I say so? Some reasons:

Only one fourth or less of those who start with a nursing course end up with jobs in the US.
In the latest nursing board exam, only 43% of the examinees passed. Of these, many if not most will try to get the NCLEX, the exam to get qualified for US nursing jobs. Not everyone will pass. Of these, they still have to actually get jobs. Then they will have to contend with visa limits; this month (April), the visa quota for the US from the Philippines for 2008 was already met, and thus no more visas will be issued this year.

One fourth success ratio seems not bad. However, please note that this is the best of times. The US is suffering a nursing shortage and till this year, it has been able to absorb as many new nurses as we can produce. This ratio will get worse from this point on. Think of the backlog in visas – next year, those who didn’t make it this year will try again, and then with the additional competition of a whole new batch of nurses. The oversupply will back up, lowering “success” ratios to 1/5 or even 1/10 of graduates in only a few years.

The Philippines is not the only source for nurses for the US.
True, there is a nursing shortage in the US. But who says that all those openings are just waiting to be filled by Filipino nurses. There are many more countries where nurses could come from; and with the Philippines reaching its quota maximum, they will surely be coming from these other countries in increasing numbers.

We also need to consider the increasing supply of nurses from the US itself. Enrollment in nursing courses in the US is increasing. As economic hard times come, there is also the tendency of many Americans who left the nursing profession during the boom times to come back to nursing. There is a large number of former nurses in various other kinds of jobs in the US right now; they are starting to return to nursing, which they view as a stable job with a good income – perfect for these difficult times.

In six years time, a lot of things could happen to the nursing job opportunities in the US. Of course, there are still jobs for nurses in other countries e.g. Europe, the Middle East, and Japan. But with all the new nurses who will be around in 6 years, the competition for these jobs will also be quite intense.

Other professions will also be in demand 6 years from now.
The world will change a lot in six years, and there will be lots of jobs available both in the Philippines and abroad. Those with professional and technical qualifications would be able to land these jobs. Think about the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry. We know this more from the call centers that have sprouted all over the country. However, BPO does not end with call centers – it is just the beginning. There is a big untapped market for the outsourcing of accounting, bank back-office functions, IT development, even research and development. With the development of communications technology, it makes more and more sense for companies (and not only those from English-speaking countries) to outsource many of their functions. The Philippines is only starting to tap into this market. This will be booming in six years. Thus, there will be lots of jobs for those with degrees in accounting, banking and finance, IT and even the applied sciences.

Then consider the jobs that will be available abroad. There will be a continuing need for skilled technical personnel from heavy machinery operators, to electricians, plumbers, refrigeration technicians etc. At the higher end, there will be enough jobs for architechts and engineers, accountants and computer experts of all kinds. Not only will foreign companies continue to hire Filipinos; Filipino companies will increasingly bring their own workers to their foreign projects.

Even seemingly unpromising jobs e.g. school teachers or agricultural extension workers may see an increase in demand, accompanied by a marked increase in salaries. Sooner or later, the country will realize the importance of such jobs. Teachers, after all, are all-important in ensuring that the country continues to produce skilled workers and professionals for domestic and international jobs. And farm extension workers are essential in ensuring that the country produces enough food.

With all the possibilities, it is no longer a simple and cut case for nursing as the quick route to a big income. Nursing may still remain as one of the viable options, but the beginning college student has a lot of choices of what course to take.

Why only “maybe”?
Now, let us go back to why “maybe”. One thing about the range of jobs that will be available 6 years from now is that there is a lot of possibilities for “sideways” movement. One possibility for those who tried but failed to land a nursing job abroad, is get a job with a BPO company. Some companies still do medical transcriptions; people with a nursing background will qualify quite well for this. And, there is always the call center agent possibility – if you are good enough to pass the nursing board, your English is probably good enough to become a call center agent.

And there is always a possibility that even though one did not have the inclination for nursing to begin with, that they would acquire it over the years of studying to be a nurse. And there will be enough jobs available (and some with quite reasonable salaries) in the Philippines as nurses – of course, you would probably be working in a public hospital, or a rural clinic. But wouldn’t that be fulfilling?



4 Responses to “Think twice before starting with a nursing course”

  1. quarterlifec said

    Sadly, the reality here right now is the reality that there are thousands of unemployed nurses because of “oversupply”. There are no visas available for US-bound nurses as there is a retrogression in place, plus other countries require that nurses be experienced at least 2 years before they even consider hiring these foreign nurses. With the unemployment getting worse each year because of so many nursing graduates, and no visas are available, it seems like nursing is not a good choice at this time. If there is a dark period in nursing recruitment to other countries, that happens to be now. Nurses are being asked to pay a fee to be VOLUNTEER nurses. It’s sick. It’s exploitation. But I guess with the retrogression in place, and false hopes the government is drilling into the heads of its people about nursing, this is bound to continue.

    Why I know all these? I’m an unemployed nurse myself. Even volunteer positions are somewhat on freeze-hiring. The agencies for recruitment abroad spit me out once they find out I have no working experience, even if I’ve passed nclex (US), ielts (for US, New Zealand, Australia, UK), and have a visascreen (US). I’m sure I’m not the first to say this. There thousands out there who echo these same sentiments. And there will probably be more.

  2. Pete Martinez said

    Hi Carlo,

    I just stumbled across this blog, and WOW! You just pulled the words right out of my mouth! I completely and absolutely agree with EVERY SINGLE point you mentioned in this blog.

    Thank you for writing it. I am not a nurse, but I am so sick of the whole nursing hype. Every single Filipino family in the US (I am based in New York City) does nothing but encourage its children and grandchildren to be nurses. Is there anything else that the Filipino CAN do? C’mon now! We need to start getting more creative here and break out of our stereotype…

    I will not dispute the fact that nursing provides the best job security out there (not to mention the great pay that comes WITH overtime- and notice I emphasize WITH OVERTIME because that’s how they make their big bucks), but I am almost certain that there are other professions (even WITHIN the health care field and outside) that make as much, and even MORE money than nursing.

    Bottom Line: If you have a passion for nursing, GO FOR IT! MORE POWER TO YOU. But if nursing is just an easy ticket to a US working permit and big bucks, good luck to those people, because in the end, they will realize that nursing takes compassion, patience, and most of all, fortitude. The desire for money has nothing to do with nursing.

    Thanks once again, and continue your blogs. I actually learn a lot! 🙂

    Pete Martinez

  3. website said


    […]Think twice before starting with a nursing course « Carlo's Think Pieces[…]…

  4. Mercedes said

    “Think twice before starting with a nursing course Carlo’s Think Pieces” was in fact a terrific post, can not wait to read more of your blog posts. Time to waste a lot of time online haha. Thanks ,David

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