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Nurses’ group slams Cynthia Villar’s ‘room nurse’ tag

The Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) on Wednesday said it “strongly detests” the “room nurse” label used by senatorial candidate Cynthia Villar in a debate. The association, which claims to have over 360,000 members nationwide, said the nursing curriculum in the country “aims to produce a holistic professional nurse.” “While some of our countrymen equate nursing to patient care or home care, we want to emphasize to them that patient care or home care is only one aspect of our profession, while maintaining the integrity and dignity of Filipino nurses,” the group said in a statement signed by its board of governors. Villar had apologized for the controversial statement she made on national television two weeks ago. During the program, Villar said that some nursing students did not have to finish their undergraduate degrees if they wanted to be “room nurses” abroad. In her apology, the senatorial candidate said she did not have time to elaborate on her statement due to time constraints. She also said she had written a letter apologizing to and seeking dialog with the PNA. The PNA, for its part, said it is “challenged” by Villar’s statements to “promote and protect the integrity” of the nursing profession. It likewise urged Filipino nurses “to continue with their good work and in making a difference as they touch lives.” What went before In September 2004, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), then led by Fr. Rolando dela Rosa, ordered nursing schools offering nursing courses to comply with all the commission’s requirements in order for them to be accredited. The CHED’s directive was prompted by the proliferation of supposedly substandard nursing schools whose students perform poorly in licensure exams. A school must meet four requirements to be able to offer a nursing program: a dean with a postgraduate nursing degree, faculty members with master’s degrees, adequate facilities such as a library and a laboratory, and its own or a partner tertiary base hospital for its students’ hands-on training. In 2005, Dela Rosa requested 23 schools to stop its nursing courses as they failed to meet the CHED’s requirements. The directive was opposed by the supposedly substandard educational institutions. The House committee on higher and technical education, then chaired by Villar, called congressional hearings to intercede and deal with the matter. During the hearings, some lawmakers reportedly criticized CHED for its supposed “abuses” and “injustice” against the nursing schools, which had invested in their nursing programs. Villar, in a statement, explained that her committee sought to give some students who wanted to become caregivers the option to be given certifications on completing the first two years of their courses. Those who opt to continue their trainings in hospitals can continue their courses too. At the height of the controversy, Dela Rosa stepped down as CHED chairperson, citing “personal reasons” and “conflict with his priestly ministry.” The Philippine Daily Inquirer, citing an unnamed source, however reported that the official quit his post due to pressure from some lawmakers who threatened to cut the commission’s 2005 budget if the nursing schools were shut down. Villar, for her part, said these issues were already beyond purview. She said she had no power over CHED or the nursing schools during her stint as a congresswoman. — DVM, GMA News