Why Filipino Nurses Migrate to Oz

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Only one out of the eight Filipino nurses in this photo continues to work in the Philippine healthcare industry. The rest have migrated to other countries to practice their profession. (Photo courtesy: Katrina Entrampas)

At the age of seven, Maria Katrina Entrampas knew that she wanted to become a teacher. She held on to that dream until she heard the news about the high demand for nurses abroad. When she reached high school, nursing suddenly became a trending course for college students in the Philippines due to the increase in job opportunities available for nurses in countries such as the United States, United Kingdom and the Middle East.

“I gave up my childhood dream of becoming a teacher because I really wanted to work abroad,” Ms Entrampas said.

Her father also worked overseas as a member of a crew ship since she was young.

For most Filipinos, working overseas was seen as the ticket to escaping the poor economic conditions in their country.

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Ms Entrampas during their college graduation in 2010 (Photo courtesy: Katrina Entrampas)

It was the 6th of April in 2010 when Ms Entrampas finally received her college diploma in Nursing in the Philippines. She immediately reviewed for the board exam and received her license as a Registered Nurse in March 2011.

She volunteered in a public hospital for one month just to earn a certificate and decided to venture into other jobs while figuring out what country she should work for as a nurse.

Ms Entrampas said at that time, nurses in Philippine public hospitals only received a monthly salary of P 15,000 (A$ 500) while nurses in private hospitals were paid P 8,000 (A$ 266.67) every month.

“Plus you have a lot of deductions so there’s really not much left for your basic needs. Filipino nurses were and still are underpaid. A family can hardly survive with those wages,” she said.

  • 85% of Filipino nurses are working outside the country
  • A total of 2, 457 Filipino nurse migrants to Australia have been recorded from 2010-2014
  • By 2025, Australia is expected to have a shortage of 109,000 nurses

Filipino Nurses in the BPO Sector

Ms Entrampas decided to work as a call center agent and as an English tutor for Korean students instead.

“At least as a call center agent, I was able to save a little money for my application abroad,” she narrated.

In 2010, the Philippines became the world’s Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) capital, employing hundreds of thousands of Filipinos, including nursing graduates. As call center agents, nurses could earn twice as much as what they are paid for in hospitals.

Among the Filipino nurses who continues to work in the B.P.O. industry is Pamela Estalilla, who has no plans of going back to working in the country’s healthcare sector.

“In my opinion, given the nature of work, nurses should be paid much more than call center agents. Unless that happens, I have no plans to do that again ever,” she said.

Katrina’s journey to Oz

Ms Entrampas initially planned to apply in the United States, however US demand for Philippine nurses plateaued because of its shrinking market and filling up of visa quotas.

She then heard of Australia’s current demand for nurses in its Skilled Occupations List. Knowing that she had a few relatives who migrated to Australia, she decided to give the land down under a try.

She first applied for a tourist visa in 2012 and worked as a babysitter for her nephews and nieces for three months. Because of her limited approved stay, she had to go back to the Philippines shortly.

“I learned about how much I could possibly earn if I worked as a nurse here in Australia and I told myself that I was definitely coming back,” she said.

For Filipino nurses to apply for work in Australia, they should pass a mandatory Occupational English Test (OET) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test. They are also required to pass specific examinations in Australian nursing theory and practice to receive nurse registration, or complete a registered nurse bridging program.

Ms Entrampas learned that the fastest way to go back to Australia was by securing a student visa and working her way towards earning Permanent Residency through points testing. This in fact, is the technique used by most Filipinos today in order to secure a ticket to the land down under.

She came back to Australia in 2013 with her student visa after enrolling in a certificate course in Aged Care. The process was not easy, as she had to borrow P 1.5 million or more than A$45,450 for her bank statement requirement for her visa application. On top of this, she had to pay her tuition and visa processing fee, as well as her airfare expenses.

“My family made such a huge investment for me to be able to get here. This motivated me to work very hard,” she said.

In Sydney, she juggled three jobs at a time. She worked in a nursing home, became a nanny, and cleaned people’s houses just to pay the bills.

 “My day was like, study, work, work, work, study. I barely had time to rest,” she said.

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Ms Entrampas during their college graduation in 2010 (Photo courtesy: Katrina Entrampas)

As an Assistant in Nursing (AIN), she earned A$21 an hour, which was even bigger than the daily minimum wage of nurses in the Philippines.

“What I earned in a week in the Philippines, I earned in a day in Australia. So I really didn’t mind cleaning after old people or scrubbing dirty toilets,” she said.

She was able to pay her loans after a few months and managed to save enough money so that she could enroll in a Bachelor’s degree in an Australian University and become a Registered Nurse in Australia. She could then gain enough points for permanent residency and would no longer have to pay for tuition fees to remain in the country.

Depending on the state, Australian registered nurses earn at least A$27 per hour. In Queensland for example, they receive an hourly rate of A$35.34.

Next year, Ms Entrampas will earn her second bachelor degree in Nursing, this time in Australia, and she can hardly wait for that day.

Living Abroad

Although the compensation is great, Ms Entrampas said living away from home is very difficult. She had to adjust to a lot of things—the lifestyle, culture, even the weather.

She said she battled depression and homesickness especially during the winter when everything felt gloomy.

“After my first two months, I wanted to go home so badly. I missed the Philippines so much,” she narrated.

“It breaks my heart that I was caring for other people in a foreign land but I could not take care of my own family when they were sick.”

Finding fellow Filipino nurses in school and in her workplace helped ease the loneliness she felt. They try to squeeze in fun activities into their schedule every now and then to shake the blues away.

Ms Entrampas says if only working conditions for nurses in the Philippines were desirable, they would not leave at all.

    Aside from watching Filipino telenovelas together, Ms Entrampas and her fellow Filipino nurses bond at home by singing acoustic songs. In this video, they sing “Hawak Kamay,” which means “We’re in this journey together”

Nursing Shortage in Australia vis-a-vis Philippine ‘Brain Drain’

Filipino nurses continue to flock to Australia to earn a higher income. Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection has recorded a total of 2,457 Filipino nurse migrants to Australia from 2010-2014, who were either sponsored by employers or gained permanent residency through Points Tested Skilled Migration. These figures do not yet include the number of Filipino nurses who were granted an Australian visa by enrolling as international students like Ms Entrampas.

This might sound favorable to Australian healthcare institutions, especially after a report from Health Workforce Australia in 2012 revealed that the country will face a shortage of 109,000 nurses by 2025. The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) stated that short-term shortages in nursing and midwifery positions have been addressed by hiring skilled migrants.

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The study by Lorenzo et al. (2007)  shows that there is a higher number of internationally employed Filipino nurses

Although Australia can benefit from the influx of Filipino nurses, the Philippines on the other hand has been losing its healthcare workforce. According to a health worker migration case study commissioned by the International Labor Organization, 85% of Filipino nurses are working outside the country. The study cited a report from the Philippine Hospital Association in 2005 stating that 200 hospitals have closed due to shortages of doctors and nurses, while 800 hospitals have partially closed for the same reason.

The Philippine Senate has already approved the Comprehensive Nursing Law of 2015 increasing the salary of nurses in public hospitals to P25, 000 (A$ 758) per month however, this is yet to be implemented.

Nurses in private Philippine hospitals on the other hand, still await government intervention for their salary increase.

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Ms Toledo during her last few days of work in a private Philippine hospital (Photo courtesy: Cyrene Toledo)

Cyrene Toledo, who has been working as a private hospital nurse for more than three years, said nothing has changed since 2011. Until her last month of work in January, she only received P 10, 000 (A$ 303) monthly in exchange for work that demanded a 1:10 nurse-to-patient ratio.

“Had I not ventured into online selling, I would not have survived those three years,” she said.

She is now working as a nurse in Singapore.

“Unless the government makes concrete actions to make us stay, they will continue to lose their health care workers,” she commented.

The challenge for ethical recruitment

With an average nurse age of 50, Australia is challenged to achieve self-sufficiency in nursing in the future, and will continue to depend on inviting and hiring international nursing graduates. However, such recruitment drains human capital from developing countries such as the Philippines. The worldwide thirst for nurses trained in developing countries needs to be turned into a mutually beneficial phenomenon.

According to the WHO Code of Conduct on International Recruitment of Health Personnel, developed countries  need to consider sustainable health services planning, training and education in order to reduce dependence on migrant health workers. Developing countries on the other hand, need to improve workers’ compensation to avoid emigration of professionals.

Ms Entrampas, who migrated to Oz to make ends meet, is still waiting for the day where Filipino nurses do not have to leave. Like Dorothy in search for the Wizard of Oz, she too has realized that “There’s no place like home.”

 

 

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Why Filipino nurses migrate to Oz

According to a health worker migration case study by Lorenzo et al. 2007 commissioned by the International Labor Organization, 85% of Filipino nurses are working outside the country. Among the top migration destinations preferred by Filipino nurses are the United States, United Kingdom, and the Middle East. In recent years, other markets have emerged and opened for nurses including Australia.

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The study by Lorenzo et al. (2007) shows that more Filipino nurses work abroad compared to locally employed nurses

Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection has recorded a total of 2,457 Filipino nurse migrants to Australia from 2010-2014, who were either sponsored by employers or gained permanent residency through Points Tested Skilled Migration. There is an even higher number of Filipino registered nurses arriving in Australia as international students enrolled in vocational or higher education courses, with hopes of becoming permanent residents soon.

Story Angle and Subjects

My feature news article aims to tell the story of Filipino nurses in Australia by discovering why they decided to leave their home country even if it means being far away from their loved ones.

I plan to start my news article by telling the story of two Filipino nurses I know here in Australia, Katrina Entrampas and Camille Pingul. Both are Registered Nurses in the Philippines who decided to apply for an Australian student visa to be able to work their way to gaining permanent residency.

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Ms Entrampas at their nursing home in Sydney

I would like to humanize the crisis of the migration of health professionals in the Philippines by focusing on their life stories.  I will ask them about their past experiences in the Philippines, why they decided to leave, and why they chose to seek employment in Australia. I would also feature how they adjusted to the Australian lifestyle, the challenges that they encountered in the country, and how they manage to finance their living expenses and tuition fees that are priced at a much higher rate compared to local student fees.

Available Research

After using a micro-approach to the stories of Ms Entrampas and Ms Pingul, researches about the current minimum wage for nurses in the Philippines will then be quoted from the data of the Department of Labor and Employment and Philippine Executive Orders. Aside from current wages, work scenarios of nurses in the Philippines will be looked into, such as the existing nurse-to-patient ratio. There are several case studies that can be used as references to describe the impact of nurse migration in the Philippines such as that of Lorenzo et al. 2005 entitled ‘Nurse Migration from a Source Country Perspective: Philippine Country Case Study’ and Short et al. 2012’s ‘‘Filipino nurses down under’: Filipino nurses in Australia.’

Lorenzo et al. cited push and pull factors for the migration of Filipino nurses and stated that this has depleted the pool of skilled and experienced health workers in the Philippine health care system. They also cited a report from the Philippine Hospital Association in 2005 stating that 200 hospitals have closed due to shortages of doctors and nurses, while 800 hospitals have partially closed for the same reason.

Target Publication and Implications to Australian Audience

This news story will be of significance to Australian online publications such as ABC News, Sydney Morning Herald, or The Australian because it can answer two key questions that are relevant to the Australian audience. The first question asks, “Will the ongoing migration of Filipino nurses to Australia help solve the predicted shortage of nurses in Australia?” According to a report from Health Workforce Australia in 2012, the country will face a shortage of 109,000 nurses by 2025.

The second question that this topic can produce is “Will local Australian nurses fear their job security if a huge number of migrant nurses are employed in the country?”

This feature article will challenge policy makers to create a mutually beneficial relationship between both health systems in Australia and the Philippines to ensure that overseas recruitment of nurses will be done in a sustainable manner without resulting to a ‘brain drain’ in the source country.

Patricia Andrea Patena

SID: 460071754

Word Count: 643 words

References:

  • Lorenzo FME, et al. (2007). Nurse migration from a source country perspective: Philippine country case study.
  • Short et al. (2012). ‘Filipino nurses down under’: Filipino nurses in Australia

 

 

Areas for improvement on an Upstart article

 

dont sugar coat stress
The text lacks visual appeal without sub-headings, bullet points and photos

After browsing through online articles on health, particularly on obesity, I came across an interesting story on ABC News Online entitled “Emotional eating fuelling Australia’s obesity epidemic, psychologist says”.

I found another article on Upstart that tackled the same topic with the headline, “Don’t sugarcoat stress”.

Although Upstart’s story has a catchier headline, it has several areas for improvement.

Scrolling the entire text is overwhelming since it looks lengthy and it does not have sub-headings to give readers an idea of what they are getting. Subheadings enhance the scannability of a webpage, because they give readers numerous entry points into the material (Rohumaa & Bradshaw, 2011, p. 37).

It would have also been better for Upstart to post key points about the article so that readers will have a gist of the story and its important parts. This can also enhance the audience’s recall of the story.

I also suggest pictures to be included in the article, to add to its visual appeal. Lastly, media-sharing buttons to other social networking sites will increase the article’s readership.

Despite the article’s areas for improvement, it still has good features. It is well tagged and a number of hyperlinks are available to lead readers to other sites which contain the story’s sources of information. . Hyperlinking allows multilinear or multisequential reading of text (Tapas, 2006, p.38). It also has interactive features wherein readers can comment on the article by leaving a reply below and they can also respond to the author via his twitter account which is hyperlinked on the page.

Name: Patricia Andrea Patena

Student ID: 460071754

Word Count: 258 words

References:

Rohumaa, L. and Bradshaw, P. (2011) ‘Writing for the Web’. In: The Online Journalism Handbook: Skills to Survive and Thrive in the Digital Age. Routledge.

Tapas, Ray (2006) Multimediality, Interactivity and Hypertextuality, in Online Journalism, New Delhi: Foundation Books.

 

 

Cyclone Victor claims six

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More than 20 houses were destroyed by Cyclone Victor in Honiara

Six people died and 18 were injured after cyclone Victor struck Honiara City yesterday. More than a hundred people were left homeless after strong winds destroyed at least 20 houses.

Among the six casualties, three men died from drowning when their car was blown off the road into the river by winds moving more than 140 kilometers per hour. Flying debris hit two women and a man who died from the impact.

Emergency personnel are still attending to the victims in hospitals, while awaiting information on injured individuals from other areas outside Honiara.

Several buildings sustained structural damages from the cyclone. Officials already began clearing operations in the affected areas.

Meteorologists at the Nadi Weather Centre detected the cyclone moving quickly towards the Solomon Islands at 2 a.m. yesterday and named it “Victor” after an hour.

Government officials immediately began emergency plans. They warned all shipping companies and sent broadcast warnings to radio stations and police departments.