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Nursing Philippines: End of the Demand

Updated on November 11, 2015

The American Nursing shortage is over

I want to go to America too. Photo courtesy of AP
I want to go to America too. Photo courtesy of AP

A Lost Generation

  • Origins: A difficult life in the Philippines

The surge began in early 2002, or probably earlier. Philippine parents and students noticed that suddenly, nurses were leaving for the biggest land of prosperity for this former colony of America. The chance to immigrate via a US greencard, away from the terrible economic misery of the Philippines that awaited the majority of nurses beckoned to all. The United States was suddenly set square in the target sights of every parent as the dream destination for their children. Almost everyone had heard of someone (a neighbor, a friend) who used to be a lowly RN working in some local hospital but was now in the USA with a fat signing bonus, a brand new house and one or two cars. Local Sunday papers began to fill with advertisements from recruiters coming to hire PH RNs with mouth watering benefits: free airfare, relocation bonus and free housing. From a mere 7,000 or so candidates passing each RN licensure exam, the numbers rose to awesome levels, reaching a high of more 90,000 examinees at the height of the nursing bandwagon frenzy. It is hard to believe that overnight, tens of thousands of PH students had become advocates of the caring profession. Suddenly, every Filipino high school graduate wanted to become a nurse, whether by choice or by parental pressure. The Me Too scramble had begun.

Schools were flooded with veritable armies of students in white, scenes that were replicated in campuses all over the nation. Dubious new nursing schools sprouted all over the this impoverished (and overpopulated) country like mushrooms to meet (and cash in) on the insatiable need for Filipinos to try her his/her hand at nursing. For the first time, more males were also taking up this mainly female dominated career. Other courses lost their student populations, that would surely affect the workforce in those fields in the years ahead. Engineers, lawyers and other non-medical professionals joined the rush, hoping that with their multiple entry US visas they could jump the line after graduation by adjusting status in America. The PH beat India, China and all other countries with regard to the number of RNs taking the CGFNS and NCLEX - two examinations needed to practice in the US. The PH PRC, who gave the biannual licensing examination earned record fees from the tens of thousands of examinees. As greed set in, the quality of RN education became affected, with substandard schools opening overnight to meet the demand. This would eventually result in a scandal that would taint PH nurses - a board examination leakage of test questions. There is one Board of Nursing in the US whose staff had verbally declared that they are using a magnifying lens on the transcript of all PH applicants as "they are all suspected of being FRAUDULENT".

  • Greed and fake diplomas: The Recto sidewalk syndrome

Many greedy and lazy Pinoys who wanted to be a nurse quickly and cheated are to blame for the CABON discrimination against Philippine nursing diplomas, and the suffering now being endured by legitimate nursing graduates from that country. These despicable and disgusting Pinoys just bought their diplomas from the Philippines without attending a single hour of education. As a result their actions have destroyed the employment opportunities of genuine nurses who came here to work. As the articles and links below show, these Pinoys show the ugliest, shameful and darkest side of the Philippine Dream.

California Nursing Fraud Scam

CA BRN Press Release

The Case of Junizar Manansala

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Seven California residents have pleaded guilty to forgery charges for using fake transcripts to become licensed registered nurses, following a multiagency probe by the California Department of Consumer Affairs' Division of Investigation (DOI), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The defendants include four Los Angeles County residents – Philip Tolentino Sarmiento, Laurence Viernes, German Zagada and Jude Dagza Leoncio; two individuals from Kern County – Juan Malaluan Tenorio, Jr. and Glyn Cordova Villegas; and an Orange County man, James Quijano Leoncio. All of the defendants applied for licenses to practice as registered nurses in California using false and forged nursing school transcripts from the Philippines. They now face up to three years in prison.

Law of statistics

Tens of thousands of students who probably didn't even think of nursing as a career were goaded, pushed and pressured by classmates, friends, relatives and starry-eyed parents to take up the course, that presumably would land them at once a job in America. Little did those who were down the line know that with only 10,000 immigrant visas allocated to the PH per year for all professions under EB3, it was a statistical impossibility akin to the lotto that everyone would land in the milk of honey as an RN. An NCLEX examination center even opened in Manila to accommodate the massive number of applicants. CGFNS, another company whose VisaScreen is vital to be issued an immigrant visa was undoubtedly reaping bundles from the thousands of PH applicants. On top of these, the nurse had to take English examinations to be qualified. Not only was the path to getting the coveted US greencard financially arduous, it demanded a lot of tests to be passed, whose validity often had to be renewed due to the long wait times for EB3 visa approvals.

  • What goes up... the law of supply and demand

But as with all fads, several events would crush the dreams of more than half a million PH RNs - the exhaustion of immigrant visas and the great Recession that struck the US in 2008.When a nurse with a spouse and three children, five visas would be granted to them. The four visas given to the dependents would mean these were taken away from nurses waiting in line. With tens of thousands applying for EB3 visas under which RNs are classified, the result is a backlog of five to six years. This includes RNs waiting in the PH, other countries and those who were allowed to enter the USA as tourists and adjust their status. This was termed 'RETROGRESSION" by the State Department. With the collapse of the Housing Market, the US economy wasn't in a hiring mode, and many hospitals laid off their workers. This included nurses. Things were never the same again for PH RNs.

New Zealand, Australia, the UK, Canada, Singapore, Norway and the Middle East would become alternative destinations for RNs, who due to their excessive numbers had saturated the job market in the PH. RNs were now even paying hospitals just so they could gain certificates for training experience. Call centers saved most jobless RNs as competition for every single post in hospitals had reached epic proportions.

  • Endgame: Retrogression, Recession, Concurrence

Now, in the US, more new RNs have joined the workforce, and the shortage has eased significantly and has even been questioned as moving into the realm of myth. Most recruiting agencies had closed down, hospitals abandoning their petitioned nurses still in the PH due to the economic Recession and more US grown RNs entering the workforce. Very few companies were willing to hire a nurse from the PH when the whole process would take 5 to 6 years. A new graduate from the US would be preferable. American nursing schools were catching up with the demand now and pouring more nurses into the system. US students too knew about this "nursing shortage" in their own backyard and had seen the influx of so many Philippine RNs into the healthcare system.

Take the case of the Board of Nursing of California: an applicant needs to have a valid Social Security Number (SSN) in order to apply. So you have to be an immigrant or a citizen to be eligible. This effectively eliminates the PH nurses from ever applying to CA. And now, the CA BON has enforced another existing ruling called CONCURRENCY to include all PH graduates. If you are from the PH, forget about applying to CA.

  • Denials of New Mexico Endorsements

The analysts of the CA Board have also been denying Endorsement applications from New Mexico, but have issued licenses to applicants from Vermont and Texas who had their education in the Philippines in 2005. Maybe being sponsored by an employer with a waiting job may have an influence on how the analysts are selectively handing out licenses by endorsement. Does this imply that New Mexico Board Licensees are inferior and not up to California Standards? Does this smell of DISCRIMINATION?

  • Using other legal means to enter America

Many PH RNs now resort to marrying American citizens (fiancée visas) whether for real or not - just to be able to enter the US legally. As for those carrying multiple entry visas, adjustment of status in the US is no longer an option, as there are no employers willing to hire. So most tourists go back to the PH empty handed, or try their luck by overstaying and transforming into illegal immigrants working as caregivers, separated painfully from their families back home by decades. But there are still lucky ones, like many pinoys who came to America after getting Family-based immigrant visas. Most of these already finished their BS Nursing, and when the petitions by their parents in America came through, they breezed through immigration, ready to work in the US.

  • Advice to parents and children

The Demand is now over for PH RNs. There is no nursing shortage, at least in the US that needs any more PH immigrant nurses. The time might come that nursing will cease to be classified by the State Department as Schedule A category for visa issuance.

Now, more than ever, parents in the PH must acknowledge this fact and turn away from a profession whose long term employment prospects appears dim for a decade or more. Continuing on this path would lead to wasted cash on tuition fees that could be used more productively in other endeavors.This would also save the future of their children (and avoid misery) who would rather be interior designers, engineers, lawyers, business men or nautical graduates. Doing otherwise would result in a jobless, unfulfilled, lost generation of professionals numbering close to a million.

A positive result of this oversupply though, is that healthcare could conceivably improve as there are more RNs among the population. Medical school enrollment might also increase as jobless RNs decide to proceed to take up Medicine instead. Call centers will have an abundant pool of workers to hire. For the rest, a lot of time, effort and money had been sacrificed for the dream or chance of immigrating.

Sunset for pinoy nurse immigrants

Board Exam Results

The June 2013 Board Examination Result for Nurses in the PH shows a steady and perceptible trend - a rapid decline in examinees. From a high of more than 90,000 takers at the height of the perceived "nursing shortage in America", only 37,887 took the test this June 2013.

Pinoy parents have begun to wake up and accept the fact, that the "craze" is now over and being a nurse in the PH means joblessness, even if you are a topnotcher in the exams, mediocrity still awaits you. It doesn't matter, you're still one nurse among more than half a million queuing up for scarce positions in both the public and private sectors.

For the December 2013 examination, a further drop to 35,943 examinees is noted.

PRC on Friday, January 23, 2015 named a total of 15,292 out of 26,690 who have passed the Nurse Licensure Examination. This level is now nearing the pre-nursing boom numbers when an average of only 7,000 or so passed the examination.

May 2015 Board Results: Further drop seen to just 9,707/17,981

The Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) announces that 9,707 out of 17,891 passed the Nurse Licensure Examination given by the Board of Nursing in the cities of Manila, Bacolod, Baguio, Cabanatuan, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Dagupan, Davao, Iloilo, Laoag, Legazpi, Lucena, Pagadian, Tacloban, Tuguegarao and Zamboanga last May 2015.


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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      How to cite this article?

    • profile image

      Karen Lackovichl 

      4 years ago

      Most of the Filipino nurses in California do not speak English in the workplace-no matter where they is a horrible environment to work in. Least of all patients hearing this all day. Hopefully we see no more no fees from there.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Hi Icetragon7, you have written a great hub about the demand for Philippine nurses. I know some nurses in Philippines who work online as a writer to make a living and more are looking for online jobs. I was shocked, but now I understand the reason. If you have time, please also visit my website here: Thank you in advance!

    • icedragon7 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from The Shire

      Thank you for the positive comment.


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