The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) said Thursday it will discuss with the state universities and colleges (SUCs) offering nursing programs the possible implementation of a return service program to address the shortage of nurses in the Philippines.
CHED chairman Prospero de Vera III made the remark after President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. instructed commission to address the country’s shortage on the number of nurses due to migration which has been affecting the local delivery of healthcare services.
“The return service can be imposed especially in schools with government subsidies. Because if the government pays for their education, the government can attach certain provisions to their subsidy,” De Vera said at a press conference.
“We will discuss with the state universities and colleges a possible, in terms of this program for nurses, because their tuition and miscellaneous are paid by government. We can also provide scholarships to nursing students or additional stipends to nursing students and miscellaneous and attach a return service to that. That one can be done,” he added.
As for private schools, De Vera said it might be difficult to implement such considering that they are not subsidized by the government, unless they have a scholarship program for nursing students.
He mentioned the Doktor Para sa Bayan Act which grants scholarships to poor but deserving Filipino students in medical schools and provides them with free required textbooks, uniform, and living allowances, among others.
After graduating and passing the licensure examinations for physicians, the scholar must fulfill the mandatory return service agreement by serving his hometown or any underserved municipality determined by the Department of Health as a priority area—one year for every year that the scholarship has been availed of.
Otherwise, the physician-scholar will be required to pay twice the full cost of the scholarship, including other benefits and related expenses.
During the Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) Healthcare Sector group meeting on Wednesday, Marcos said the government has to be clever about the healthcare manpower as the country produces the best nurses.
Citing the Department of Health’s (DOH) 2022 data, De Vera said that 51.2% of 617,898 Filipino nurses licensed to practice served as migrant health workers.
He, however, explained that CHED has already carried out interventions that will address the shortage on nurses, including retooling board non-passers, adopting nursing curriculum with exit credentials, redirecting non-practicing nurses, conducting exchange programs with other countries, and upskilling and reskilling future nurses.
The agency is also working on flexible short-term masteral programs to address the lack of instructors in nursing and medical schools.
Asked whether it is justifiable for countries to hire a bulk of Filipino healthcare workers, De Vera said that it is inevitable for that to happen considering that the country’s nurses and doctors are world class.
“Our curriculum satisfies the standards of countries abroad. Our graduates pass the necessary licensure test. In a sense you can say that it is inevitable to produce world class nurses and doctors and therefore the obstacles that they have to surmount to practice are actually less than in other professions. We can also say that we should be proud of our graduates,” he said.—AOL, GMA Integrated News