MANILA, Philippines – Finally, after working for 6 years as a ward nurse for the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI), 28-year-old Ma. Arian Christina L. Cregencia became a regular employee.
This development comes with a salary raise, so her basic pay is now at P20,000 per month. She waited 6 years to get this salary increase.
It’s not much, but as a regular employee, Cregencia still has it better than most of her colleagues who are still working as contractual employees.
Unlike her, 29-year-old Victor Romero, a nurse from the same ward who has been working at NKTI for more than 4 years is a contractual employee.
On a good month, Romero can earn P14,000 at most. A good month would be when he’d be called in for more shifts than usual.
Romero’s wife also works as nurse in the same hospital, for much longer years, but also as a contractual employee earning just as much.
Both Cregencia and Romero, who have just recently started raising their own families, are earning barely enough to sustain their needs. It’s a hard life, but they manage to get by.
But now they have to find a way to budget their meager salary even tighter, as the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Act comes into full swing, requiring nurses and other professionals like Cregencia and Romero to attend seminars and trainings that don’t always come cheap.
‘Maghihigpit na lang ng kumot'
To be clear: Both Cregencia and Romero believe that they do need to regularly attend seminars and trainings to make sure that they’re continously growing and learning as professionals.
“Kailangan talaga siya (trainings), kasi doon ka ma-uupdate sa mga bagong practices, equipment,” Cregencia said. (We really need trainings because that's where we get updates about new practices, equipment.)
“Sana libre lang talaga,” Romero added. (If only it's free.)
The cost of seminars and training are both their primary concern. Seminars from private CPD providers can cost them at least a thousand pesos per session, and they will have to join several to get the required 45 units.
There’s a cheaper alternative: The association of senior nurses in their hospital also conducts PRC-accredited trainings which are cheaper, at just P500 to P650 per session. But this doesn’t happen on a regular basis.
Fortunately for Cregencia, their hospital paid for her to attend a seminar last year which allowed her to get 22 units. But this is also quite rare – she was the only one in their ward who got this opportunity.
Meanwhile, when asked how many CPD credits does he have, Romero laughed. “Wala pa po,” (None.) he answered.
Time is also a problem, the two said.
Nurses in NKTI work in 12 hour shifts for at least 4 to five days a week, Romero shared. The few days off they have are the only times they would be able to attend these seminars.
But in NKTI, they are also required already to attend trainings and seminars for at least 48 hours a year if they want to keep their contracts. The hospital provides training sessions for free, but they are not accredited by the PRC.
This puts Cregencio and Romero in a bind: Aside from the seminars they need to attend to get their license renewed, they need to attend even more seminars to get their employment contracts renewed.
Knowing that they will need to comply, Cregencio and Romero have a few requests: For their hospital’s free and in-house seminars to be accredited by the PRC as soon as possible, and for cheaper CPD-providers to be available.
But until then, Romero’s plan is simple: “Maghihigpit na lang muna sa kumot.” (We'll just fit under the blanket.)
A migrant worker’s concern
Accessibility and cost is also the primary concern of migrant worker Elisha Gay Hidalgo with the CPD.
Hidalgo is a cum laude graduate of Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Santo Tomas who now lives in Bologna, Italy. Her dream is to work with an international humanitarian non-government organization like UNICEF and is now taking her master’s degree in sociology and social works.
Hidalgo had always wanted to get a license as a nutritionist in Italy. But she always fails to finish completing the application there before it expires, because of the long processes and the short validity of documents in the Philippines.
It was last year when Hidalgo needed to have her license renewed, so she sent her brother in the Philippines to process her papers for her.
Unlike professionals in the Philippines with access to local seminars, Hidalgo has no choice but to take online courses to comply with the CPD requirements.
According to Hidalgo, one needs to spend at least $40 to $50 for each of these online courses nowadays. There are no cheaper alternatives, as these online courses are offered only by universities abroad.
"Tanggap namin na kailangan naming mag-update... pero sana tulungan nila kaming gawing available ang seminars, courses," she said. (We agree that we need to be updated... but hopefully they help make seminars and courses available.)
To add insult to injury, when her brother went to process the renewal of her license, bringing the certificates from the online courses she took, they were asked to pay P1,000 to get her certificates evaluated by the PRC.
“Nagbayad na nga ako online, tapos pagbabayarin pa nila ulit ako ng Php1,000 para magreview? Eh yung license [renewal fee] nga Php450 lang!” she said. (I already paid online, then they'll ask me to pay Php1000 more for their review? The license renewal fee is only Php450!)
For Hidalgo, it’s a slap in the face of professionals who already took their own initiative to look for ways to comply with the new PRC ruling.
“Sana wag naman nila mahalan yung pagevaluate. Yung universities na nagbibigay ng courses, dollars din ang bayad dun. Wag nang dagdagan,” Hidalgo said. "Kung di pa nila kaya iprovide yang online courses, ginawa na namin sa sarili naming initiative, wag na nila kaming tagain sa Pilipinas.”
(I hope they don't make evaluation fees expensive. We pay dollars to universities offering online courses. Stop adding more expenses. If they can't provide online courses, and we already took our own initiative to attend some, stop asking for more fees in the Philippines.)
Hidalgo also said that the CPD will only make life harder for already “disadvantaged” professionals – those who are unemployed or were forced to take a different career path because of lack of job opportunities.
"Paano kung nakapasa ka ng board, pero breadwinner ka at hindi ka makahanap ng trabaho, kaya nagtrabaho ka sa [call center]? Papano kung 'di ka maka-attend ng seminars na ‘yan?.. Lalong mahirap mareintegrate sa kanilang career,” she said.
(What if you pass the board, but you're a breadwinner who can't find a job, so you decided to work for a call center? What if you can't attend these seminars? It will be harder to reintegrate yourself back to your chosen career.)
Hidalgo then wrote an open letter to the PRC, asking them to reevaluate the CPD guidelines, and make opportunities for learning accessible for Filipino professionals here and abroad first.
For her, the CPD Act’s dream of making Filipino professionals globally competitive is good. But it would have helped if they consulted and listened to those who would be affected first.
It’s “not just about points,” after all - it’s also money, time, and effort. – Rappler.com
Don Kevin Hapal is Rappler’s Head of Data and Innovation. He started at Rappler as a digital communications specialist, then went on to lead Rappler’s Balikbayan section for overseas Filipinos. He was introduced to data journalism while writing and researching about social media, disinformation, and propaganda.