The story of Filipino Nurses and their immigration to countries such as the US is one that is much deeper than that of opportunity abroad. According to Dr. Catherine Ceniza Choy, an expert historian, “Filipinos and specifically specific groups of Filipino Immigrant Workers like immigrant nurses, are not foreigners in the way we tend to think about foreigners. They actually have a historical interaction with Americans.” This is because the Philippines was an American colony in 1898. Since the late 19th century, Americans have effectively westernized the local culture which led to sowing the seeds of one day immigrating to the USA. This opened the door for Filipino women to be recruited as volunteer auxiliary contract nurses to help American healthcare workers in the country. Not long after, the ‘Pensionado Act’ was signed in 1903, funding several Filipino students to pursue education in the USA. This fueled the early beginnings of the Filipino nursing industry which had a population of around seven thousand in the late 1940s — but quickly grew to fifty three thousand by the year 1953.
Currently, Filipino nurses are sought by hospitals and other healthcare service providers in countries like Germany, U.K., Ireland, Singapore, and Japan. Next to the US, Saudi Arabia is now the second leading destination for Filipino Nurses. These nurses and their families look at opportunities for work abroad as their path towards a more secure life. Many nurses have aspired to enter the profession ever since they were children. Nurses who work abroad can typically earn anywhere from fifteen times to twenty times the amount that they would be paid if they looked for work in the Philippines. The Filipino demand for nursing education can be illustrated by the fact that the country has around five hundred nursing schools and a very stringent board exam to ensure that certified nurses are able to provide high standards of service internationally. In California alone, the Filipino immigrant population comprises four percent of the total state population, but contributes to over twenty percent to the states workforce. In many countries, Filipino nurses have become essential assets to the different systems that provide people with quality healthcare.
Despite the bountiful opportunities abroad, many Filipino Nurses still face a lot of struggles in their search for a better life for their families, many of whom stay in the Philippines. Often times, these nurses will spend several months and even years away from their families. Their lives in other countries isn’t necessarily easier but it’s often depicted as such in media. Several cases have been reported over the years on work discrimination against Filipino Nurses. This however has never stopped the will to chase opportunities abroad. With the growing demand for healthcare workers globally, nurses from the Philippines continue to become the backbone of international healthcare services.
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