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MANILA, Philippines – Most adult Filipinos, or around 54%, are in favor of hiring nursing graduates who have yet to pass their board exams as nursing assistants in government hospitals, according to survey results from Octa Research released on Friday, October 6.
In a survey conducted from July 22 to 26, more than half of Octa’s respondents said they believed unlicensed nurses should augment public hospitals’ workforces, while 39% thumbed down the idea.
Among major areas, Metro Manila had the highest percentage of Filipinos in favor of the option, at 79%. Next was Mindanao at 71%, followed by Balance Luzon at 49%, and the Visayas at the bottom with 32% in favor.
The Visayas also had the highest percentage of Filipinos not in favor of the idea, at 64%.
Around 7% of Filipinos did not give an opinion.
Among socioeconomic classes, class ABC had the highest percentage of hiring nurses who had not passed the board exams yet, at 60%. Classes D and E were the most not in favor, at 39% and 40% respectively.
Mimaropa topped the regions in favor of hiring unlicensed nurses, at 92%, while the Cordillera Administrative Region showed 0% approval. Across age groups, the 35 to 44 age bracket gave the most approval at 61%, and Filipinos aged 75 and above gave the least approval, at 23%.
Augmenting the health workforce
On September 28, the Philippine government launched the Clinical Care Associates Upskilling Program, which allowed the hiring of nursing graduates who have taken their boards, but had not been able to pass yet. The program allows them to hone their skills while working.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had called the program a “groundbreaking endeavor,” adding he was confident it would help healthcare workers in the country.
Marcos said that while working, the unlicensed nurses will have opportunities to attend tutorials and classes, and to review, so that they have better chances of passing the board the next time around.
The Department of Health (DOH) and the Commission on Higher Education were tasked to oversee the implementation of the program.
In June, Health Secretary Ted Herbosa proposed the hiring of nursing graduates who did not pass their exams – but got a 70% to 74% mark – in hospitals to make up for the demand for nurses in the Philippine health system. The exam’s passing rate is 75%.
The nursing graduates would still be under the supervision of licensed nurses, he said. There were 4,500 nurse vacancies in DOH hospitals at the time, according to Herbosa.
“I’m only trying to fix a problem of lack of nurses in the government hospitals. Lack of nurses means lack of services,” Herbosa had said at the time, in an interview with CNN Philippines.
The Philippines has long been grappling with the constant migration of nurses due to higher wages abroad. The country especially felt the pinch of the health workers’ plight as many began to walk away due to delayed salaries and benefits at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.