We are living in a fast evolving world-full of twist and dynamism. I am a Filipino Registered Nurse and I can say that the nursing profession is no exemption. Like any Filipino nurses, I have a tale to tell. Yes, I am one of those swayed that Nursing can bring me to a greener pasture. I am one of those enchanted that families are living splendid life because of this profession. This may be true a decade ago, but now, it is a source of frustration. To thousands of fellow Filipino Nurses, it is a shattered dream. How Far Your Nurse License Carry You? Hence, my story...
Four years ago, I graduated Bachelor of Science in nursing with the hope that with the craft I have, it would lead me and my family to a greener pasture. In my years in school, perhaps the most significant thing I learned is that, as an aspiring nurse to-be, you need to have passion and conviction of what you wanted to become. The matters about assessment, nursing intervention, surgical procedure, pathophysiology, medical-surgical subject and so on are merely additional to fulfil such dream. I remember my classmate told me when I asked her, “Why did you take Nursing?” She answered, “Because I want to serve humanity and I don't wish to go abroad, I want to serve my people”. You may think I am exaggerating but it is not a lie. It is very ideal and I cannot raise any rebuttal that time. With today's, this idyllic response will never justify. With the life we have in the Philippines especially having a family to feed, idealism is not applicable.
I took my Nursing board two months after graduation and successfully passed. I wanted to pursue NCLEX exam as it was advice to me by one of my clinical instructor. I had made inquiries on the processing that time. Yet to my dismay, taking NCLEX exam isn't the best choice. I had met senior nurses in my hometown that already passed NCLEX and acquired their US-RN license. But the retrogression of economy overseas had made their application pending. Being a newly RN that time, I am full of enthusiasm. I went to several seminars such as Intravenous Training (IVT). Spent some pesos and gained license yet I haven't really used this skills much. It is simply a license and soon to expire. I even paid PNA ID twice yet I don't know how this will help.
I chose to pursue my study taking Master in Public Health while engaging the act of voluntarism, free nursing service. Hospital claims as Volunteer Nurses which means no salary but describing “voluntarism” in some hospital in my hometown doesn't give justice to its definition. Paying the hospital monthly depending on how long a “new nurse” stays in exchange of NURSING EXPERIENCE. Government nursing program arises to justify the shortage of employment such as NARS, and RN Heals. It might have helped but for how long? Six months, maybe one year and does the compensation gives justice? Some nurses may say YES because at least they receive a so called “SALARY/COMPENSATION” rather than being a volunteer. Last Year (2011), it might be great news that a certain law mentioned VOLUNTEERISM For a FEE is eradicated.
“Health Secretary Enrique Ona told hospitals run by the Department of Health (DOH) to stop volunteer programs that take in registered nurses in exchange for “work experience” as well as training fees.
“Many hospitals have implemented ‘nurse volunteerism' in the guise of ‘training programs' in order to justify the collection of ‘training fees,' whereby such basic skills training put no added value to the professional career of the nurses,” said by ONA.
My quest of finishing my Master's Degree didn't take long. I have to cease my study and take another option. I have younger siblings who are in college that time and financially I know my parents are having hard time coping with our expenses. Taking Masters is so expensive. I thought of pursuing again when I find a job. Slowly, I started feeling deprived. I felt so disappointed with the profession I choose. I thought that after graduation and passing my board exam will be my road to acquire nursing Job. I know looking for a job isn't easy but as compared to other profession, I find it difficult. Most of my nursing batches are working out of their line. Some became an English Tutor, saleslady, and even decline their vocation as nursing aide or caregiver just to go abroad. This became a big EYE OPENER to me, patience is always a virtue.
It was a year passed since my graduation, study while working in UK is in boom during that time that even my senior nurses and clinical instructor are opts to apply. I have known some of my old classmate who took the opportunity and ahead of time enjoying their UK life. From then, I choose to take this path. It is a big nursing transition that even in my plan isn't listed. Having a supportive father and believing in me, I and my best friend took the chance. Visa granted but unfortunately my friend whom we shared common nursing dream was denied. I travelled alone to England.
At almost 21 of age, I managed to reach London, England alone. This place is far different from back home. It is a wonderful place and every single spot is beautiful. It is also diversified . Having relatives in the city is a big help yet you need to struggle with the modern life. Not less than a month I am proud to say I found a job as Senior health Care assistant (A.K.A nursing assistant, nursing aide, Care Giver) in one huge nursing and residential home. During our time, our job hours weren't strict. We can take shifts as much as the ideal hours given to us due to staff shortage. We go for two day study and the rest of the week is purely worked. I have enjoyed the job though it is tough. It is in the line of my profession and somehow the nursing skills I have learned are refined. Gaining knowledge through international setting, here I learned what is hoist (machine for moving patient), gadgets for spinal patients and modern medical technology that I haven't seen in my home country. I feel amazed and thankful that even I can't practice RN title. Yet, this does not give an excuse. I envy some of my nursing batches who are enjoying their RN title in some other country. Sometimes old friends back home would call me skype and ask if I am a nurse in the UK or some even say, “Hah, Health Care assistant ka lng jan? Yung ate ko high school lng tinapos then 6 months caregiver course eh Health care assistant din xa?”.
I recall one time on duty, I was caring for a huge patient who had a Spinal injury and was paralyzed. She soiled her bed and needed help, and I was the only one in the room to help her. In that simple instance was when the reality hit—no, more like slapped me across the face.
“OMG” I said to myself, “this is what I am going to be doing for the rest of my life!”
Reality strikes me. On the other hand, it is something that I didn't picture myself doing, something that is nearly be a so called as punishment to me. Which sometimes even how much passion you crave for that thing, few regrets always come along.
Most of my colleagues are nurses back home. We have the same goal: to become a UK nurse. We took IELTS being one of the major requirements of becoming a nurse there. Yet, things are not easy. In other words, I need to find sponsor, comprehensive hours experience, financially matter and complete all the other requirements. I must say most of my fellow colleagues who have Philippines licensed have one in common. So aggressive that we didn't take enough clinical RN experience before going abroad. Passing IELTS is not the road but the experience. But not all can survive the tough nursing life we have in the Philippines with no salary. Without this, the other option is to take the course again in UK. Depend on the nursing assessment; it might take another two years for international educated nurses. “Ouch! Repeating the course is too much”. But still, if it is the only way, I did hope that I will make it someday. Yet, living in a very expensive city while sending money back home, it is somehow impossible to save enough money for that. Yes, to mention I had experience earning at least more than hundred thousand pesos in one month but it was never a big amount in pounds especially living in UK. Salary changes depending on how hard you work in that country. Fewer shifts mean less compensation. Life is competition out there and REALITY strikes me again.
Being able to recognize the situation you are in is a realization. Slowly, the things happening to me are like brutal smacked on my face, it took me a lot of time before I was able to embrace it. Acceptance doesn't happen in an instant. It's a process you would have to go through and you see it is not easy. My nursing dream starts to be shattered.
After a year since I arrived in the city of London. All I can say to physically describe this place is appreciation. I am proud to say that I have visited most of there famous tourist spot. I sent pictures and UK stuff to my family. My sister who is a fresh RN that time wanted to follow my footstep and apply the way I did but I told her a big “NO”. I told her to get enough clinical experience and pass nursing IELTS requirements. I wouldn't allow her to suffer the price of not having enough experience. Furthermore, I was able to survive with the tough job in the nursing home .Yet, immigration in UK that time is turning up. Student like us in in a burning plate, I have decided to split my hours in that nursing home despite some offered shifts. And somehow the management is aware so slowly they are cutting hours for us. So, I looked for another job. I was given the chance to work part time in a prestigious Orthopaedic Hospital, of course as Health Care Assistant. It was a great place to work and this new job environment had given me the feeling that my nursing dream is on burning fire again. The dying passion of my nursing dream is rehabilitated.
I always believe that once you established a strong conviction for something; you can be good at anything. I realized I am still young and I have chance to do the things I love in order to be successful. Human beings are created to be constantly growing, constantly changing, multi-tasking individuals, and that is why God gave us the ability to learn—to be able to do anything!
Though I am still working both in the nursing home and hospital, I also experience doing part-time light housekeeping to a Jewish family. It is an extra income for me and the pay is really good. The hospital job had made my nursing passion to grow and re-establish my nursing desire. Yes, I don't have a UK licensed yet the job make me feel I am. My UK- RN colleagues treat me just like a fully pledged nurse but of course with the limit especially in the medication. Moreover, I was able to see different cases of orthopaedic patients that I haven't seen before. I have worked with them and able to assist my RN colleague in some vulnerable cases in the ward especially if they are short staff. Before, I used to read them and only theoretical but sighting and hands-on refines me more.
I received encouragement from my colleagues of pursuing my nursing dream in the UK and not to be contented of where I am. They say I will be a great nurse. But they don't know indeed I'm trying; I have been trying ever since. While working, I have met international educated nurses from different race and they have long road of story to tell. Filipinos, Africans, Romanian, Indian nurses and so on in the UK reach their nursing dream with loads of rocks in their back. They say nothing is impossible if you really want too.
If you were to ask me in terms of competency, personal opinion with no bias, Filipinos Nurses are the best.
Fast forward.... I spent almost two years in London chasing my nursing dream. I work and earn yet the job satisfaction I still quest. But of course the security being a foreigner in that country, my visa will be expiring after a year. I had finished my first course and need to enrol a new one which too expensive. Learning and enrolling for a course which I don't know if it will make my career better. I already received my certificate for Health and Social Care NVQ 3 that time and to ask, will it make any difference? This England certificate that I have put too much effort and money on my own for almost one year is nothing as compared to my Nursing Degree in the Philippines. I wanted to shout why I would take such course when I am a nurse. Yeah, I am stupid for that. Reality strike over again!
One morning, a phone call from Canada reaches me. It was my Sister offering another switch that certainly affected my existence. Why not try Canada? Anyway, it is the original plan. To rewind, I was still studying nursing when my sister and husband submitted family sponsorship. But things change because I already graduated yet the application still on the process and we haven't heard how the status was. I left no assurance. So I guess maybe it is not for me but for my younger siblings if the application will be successful.
As I end the call, I felt a feeling that was both strange and lovely at the same time. In just that simple instance, my UK nursing dream might not pursue but what about giving a try in Canada. I felt more than thankful that I have a sister living there. It took me some time to think about. Stability wise, I don't have it in England. My visa is student; I have a very less chance to gain permanent residency or at least working visa. Working visa, maybe yes but there is no certainty. Almost every people in the world want to live in London that immigrants there are having hard time fixing there status . But if I pursue working visa in Canada, there is a big chance for me to acquire my permanent residency there after two-three years.
Fast forward, I accept the offer of my sister to be a live-in caregiver for her daughter. It would be unforgivable to say that it will just be a “using visa” for me to be legal in Canada while waiting for the time I apply my Permanent residency. My sister sends LMO and I processed my papers. Two months after, I received visa and flew to the land of maple, CANADA. Here is a new land, new dream. My shattered dream of becoming a UK nurse transform to a sprouting vision, to become a Canadian Nurse.
My first year living in Canada, maybe it is just a little reward to consider that at least I have mingled with my aging parents when they come here for just a month visit. My frustrations that I haven't tour them in London so they should have seen the place that I have live there. Canada? I can define it same as you describe the country as being Snowy and COLD. It is really tough and huge adjustment for me. It takes me almost a year to realize that you can never fulfil a perfect dream. There will always be a twist and sometimes it badly hurts. This ended me to be more realistic and to accept things are not always smooth even how much you try to polish and sparkle the way.
The weather when i arrive is extremely cold and freezing, i needed to passed out the winter break. So it took me at least three months before I had made some inquiries and made some phone calls to a Canadian nursing body. In this place, they have a high standard of Education. Foreign degree holders need to undergo assessment in order to evaluate if you need to do some upgrading or take a refreshing course. I went to inquire to the nearest college in our town. Aggressively, I paid a registration fee in that school in order for them to assess my papers. Yet to my dismay, they advise me to contact the province nursing body. I have read all the requirements online and well written clinical experience is important that i do lack. I have everything only the experience so this give me less confidence contacting the Nursing body for RN. But still why not try. No harm in trying they say, so I made a call and talk to one from the nursing body. We were able to converse and as expected clinical experience with certain required hours are needed. Yet, that call isn't a waste of time. She informs me some accommodating options. First, to do some IQUAS and get back to a Nursing College which depending on that result, International Educated Nurses might take a two years more to get Canadian Nursing Degree. According to IQAS – International Qualification Assessment Services, the 4 year BSN in the Philippines is generally assessed as similar to 2 or 3 years of post-secondary with a nursing focus. Second is to directly contact either of the two government college in the province that assess International Educated Nurses applying to become a licensed practical nurse. If you are internationally educated nurse and wish to regain your licence in Canada to work as an LPN, you can achieve this goal through a combination of challenge exams, transfer credit, and part-time distance learning.
“Heck! This is too much”, I said to myself. It makes me feel so bad. Taking the first option is okay but financially? It is not favourable on my part as of the moment. I am so drained and to spend almost 40 thousand Canadian dollars (maybe more) for two years IQUAS result isn't practical for me. I am international student and my tuition will be twice or thrice much as compared to a regular Canadian student. So I tried the second option. Here, I am much confident.
The college is five hours drive away from our place. But I disregarded because I aim for it. My nursing faith is high that time. I didn't think of any consequences, the money and loads of ‘”WHAT IF””. I didn't think of assurance and certainty. All I want is to give a try. I comply with all the requirements. It took me five months to complete. Transcript of record must be send from my university in the Philippines directly to the Canada college same as the IELTS. My immunization records which took me so long to complete as I have done several blood works and retrieve my immunization records back home. And so many more stuff requirements that almost made me give up applying. They wouldn't start my application and assessment unless all the requirements are completed.
As soon as the requirements is thorough completed. I started my registration. It is self-corrupting. Imagine, I have gone this far and now again financially I am not ready. A reminder to myself, I am an international student which payments will be twice expensive. Yeah, to start my application I have my minimum savings from my London job but it wouldn't cover my expenses soon. Money goes to fast and it's like a candle burning; when it's gone, no more. I am on a working permit yet on papers. I don't expect salary because it is my sister and brother-in-law who sponsor me. At first I planned of transferring for a real job but I realized it will just affect my status whenever I apply for Canada Permanent Residency. One continuous sponsor is the fastest way. I am just lucky that I have supportive sister to support me but of course not financially. I understand they have their own family financial issues. I live with them and they pay my taxes too. The only way I can give back is to care for my lovely niece while the parents are at work.
Two months after my registration, I received the assessment I have been waiting. I think it is fair enough, some of my nursing subjects back home are carried which I am happy about. The rest will be a challenge exam. They give me three sets of exam. This aim that whatever subject I failed from the passing score means that I need to take it as a full course subject through part-time distance. The exam must be fulfilled over 16 weeks but not beyond. They give my options of which dates should I take every exam and I have settled. As of the moment, I am going to take the first set the first week of FEB 2012. I have read some but most of my sources are online. I don't have much financial assistance to buy needed books. My nursing books are well complete back home in the Philippines. My father bought it for me during college days. He gives me the luxury of studying. To mention they are still new because I haven't used them much. I am so lazy to bring at class and because I have extra money that time I just ask my classmate to photocopy certain pages. So sad to remember and look at me now I am so deprived with those books, if only.
Living with my sister and brother-in-law, I have no problem with foods, shelter, and other basic needs. For most, I can say it is a luxury. Being financially secured is, of course a different. At the moment I am bounded by law. I should wait for my Permanent Residency or open permit before I can apply for other full time job. I need to do something and be ready of my future expenses, especially if I fail some of my challenge exams. It is not a joke to spend 1000 Canadian dollar for just one subject (international fee). I already spent almost 3500 dollar from transcript processing, express mailing from Philippines-Canada, registration for the LPNC challenge exams and other processing fees.
Stretching my time, I was able to do part time in a hospital as private caregiver or any other in-house care giving. It is temporary, working when there is a call. It is not only me; it is the same case with any Filipino, particularly fellow nurses who are vigorously pursuing for the so-called “Canadian dream”. It is very humbling, hard to swallow but it is a fact of life a must to embrace. Sometimes, I am a bit ashamed when fellow Filipino sees me doing these chores especially those who have good works. But what could I do, if I let my pride overshadow me, I will gain nothing. To me, it is a decent job and nothing to be ashamed of or will in any way crumple my dignity. The pay is very good yet of course this is not the job I want for the rest of my life. For me, it is only a means towards achieving my goal-to work as a nurse in this foreign country I want to be a nurse!
I told myself, “I have gone this far, Kahit LPN muna, when im settled with my papers then ska na lng yung RN. I will try my best but if trying this won't work, maybe nursing is not for me”.