In an intelligent and thought-provoking decision, Department of Health Secretary Enrique Ona issued a memorandum terminating all "Nurse Volunteer Programs", "Volunteer Training Program for Nurses" and all similar and related programs, in all DOH-retained hospitals.
While the memorandum brings appealing images to mind (the end of nurse exploitation, employment for licensed registered nurses, respect for the nursing profession etc.), the only effects of the ordinance that is evident right now is public hospitals being grotesquely understaffed, patients suffering from inadequate care from overworked and burnt out staff nurses and entry level nursing graduates experiencing What-The-Hell-Do-I-Do-Now? syndrome.
It's not all bullying, over fatigue and slavery that envelops a nurse volunteers life. Not every registered nurse gathers used bottles in a kariton to sell at junk shops just to have money for hospital training fees. These scenarios get featured in news programs and documentary reports because it is dramatic and controversial. Truth of the matter is, nurses volunteer because they choose to practice their profession rather than apply in call centers, have fake accents and answer calls from strangers. They do it to gain leverage in this highly competitive job market. Because let's face it, no hospital in their right mind will hire a newly licensed nurse with zero post graduate experience.
Please do not underestimate us. We are not slaves, we know what we are doing and we are aware of the situation in these hospitals. We are not shackled to the nursing station with big metal chains, forced to administer medications under duress and monitor vital signs at gunpoint. We were not dragged into an institution to serve against our will but we do it because we want to and, so far, we see the favorable outcome of honing our crafts and sharpening our skills.
Add to that the priceless feeling of having a schedule to follow, a purpose to attend to, every day. One of the hardest things in life is to wake up at numerous mornings in a row and not be able to know what to do that day or the day after that. Plus, there is the relationship and unique bond that is formed with co-trainees, staff nurses and even patients that no bum, useless, non-"slavery" day could replace.
One thing I could completely agree with, though, is that we should not be paying thousands of pesos for these so-called trainings when we have already offered our brains, bodies and licenses for free. That long-standing custom, Secretary Ona, should be the one eternally abolished but NOT, yes you read it right, every training/volunteer program in the country.
A Dead End
So, with all due respect, DOH Secretary Ona, what do you propose we, unemployed registered nurses, do now?
With Nurse Volunteerism / Nurse Trainings now prohibited in DOH mandated hospitals and NO ADDITIONAL BUDGET given for hiring needed nursing manpower, every one suffers. Staff nurses are reeling from the sudden influx of additional work load, patients are neglected from lack of care from the preposterous nurse-patient ratio and fresh graduates now have no opportunity to practice what they have learned in college, therefore lessening their chances of getting hired by hospitals due to inadequate experience.
Forgive me for this, but I think the memorandum is a hasty band-aid approach to a long and complicated problem of nurse shortages and exploitation in the country. It was a decision without due thought of the various elements that made the despicable nursing trade of our country what it is today. The problem is a hideous many-limbed menace and cutting of one arm will only make it bleed and stagger.
So, again, if I may ask, seriously, WHAT NOW?