(A letter to the Editor of Baguio Midland Courier)
I would like to congratulate Mia Magdalena Longid on her speaking out article which appeared in your paper this past week. I concur with most of her observations. Now, I would like to add some breadth and depth to her comments.
Ms. Longid was very accurate in her observations that the student is not entirely to blame in the poor performance in the nursing board examination; rather the schools that produced them should be held substantially liable. The blame begins for accepting too many students in their programs. This is a reflection that there were not any screening done to ensure that there is a match between the student and the rigor a nursing program demands.
In the United States, where I reside, students wanting to enter the nursing program are subjected to very rigorous selection criteria. First, they have to compete for admission quotas by demonstrating their proficiency in the sciences. A student who has a grade of B or less in any of the science pre-requisites is not admitted. These courses include Chemistry, Anatomy and Physiology, and Microbiology. This becomes the first selection criteria. In addition, they have to pass a nursing aptitude test to determine their interest and fit in the nursing profession.
When schools admit arbitrarily and without regard to the student’s aptitude for the nursing profession, it roots the problem of poor performance not only in school during their training but also in the national board examination. This seems to be one of the missing links why there is a poor passing rate in the national board examination. I would propose that schools of nursing in the Philippines implement this strategy. Entrance examinations should be replaced with aptitude examinations and selection of students in the upper division should be based on their foundational science courses. To merely claim that there is a screening examination is not enough. It should be objective and it should be strictly adhered to. Of course this will be difficult for those diploma mill schools whose main interest is in accepting as many as they could for the sake of financial gain.
Another malady that permeates Philippine Schools of Nursing is the lack of qualified faculty to teach. In addition, there is also a lack of educational leadership to direct the nursing program. My observations mirror those of Ms. Longid in that many schools of nursing do not have qualified deans.
Sometime ago, I perused the want ads of a major Philippine newspaper and found one looking for a Dean for a school of nursing. What struck me were the qualifications that were stated in the advertisement: Must be no more than 35 years of age and a holder of a Master’s degree in Nursing. The age limitation bothered me a lot because it seems that the focus was to attract a very young dean. Granted that perhaps a typical nurse graduates at 21 and attends a Master’s program for 2 years, this individual would not have the necessary experience as a nurse and as an educator. A master’s degree is not the sole criterion for a nurse to become a dean. The Dean of the program should have a record of scholarly work in the field and an extensive exposure as a faculty in that field. In addition, there should be a record of leadership to lead an educational department unit.
The faculty in the school of nursing should ideally have a master’s degree and should have at least 2 years of actual nursing experience. My observation in the Philippines is this is not adhered to. The nurse at the baccalaureate level does not posses enough theoretical basis of nursing nor does she have the foundation in teaching. I met several nursing clinical instructors in the Philippines who are new graduates. They have not had the necessary exposure to the field so they cannot teach from both the practical and the theoretical point of view. Do we wonder then why the product is inferior?
I have been in academia in the USA having taught for many years in nursing programs in prestigious schools and universities. I am retiring this year and plan to return to the Philippines to contribute to the education of future nurses. However, the advertisement I mentioned previously still haunts me. I am over the 35 age-limitation. I wonder if the schools I will apply to will evaluate me on the basis of my credentials as a nurse and as an educator? Or will they automatically think that I will be a detriment for their budget?
I hope that schools offering the nursing major will resuscitate their programs so that Filipino nurses will be known again for their skill. Nowadays, employers here in the USA have hesitancy hiring a nurse from thePhilippines. They are cognizant of the cheating that occurred in past board examinations and are also very aware of the diploma-mills operating from the Philippines. Unless Ms. Longid’s and others’ points are taken there will be no reawakening from the dark-age in nursing in the Philippines today.