Temporary employment programs
To address the current shortage of nurses in government hospitals, Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa had proposed the temporary hiring of nursing graduates who failed their board exam with scores between 70 percent and 74 percent, or short of the 75-percent passing grade.
The Philippine Nurses Association had opposed his proposal for lack of legal basis. It instead urged the government to make the nurses’ salaries attractive enough so those who had passed the exam, but are engaged in unrelated nursing work with better pay or are eyeing employment in hospitals abroad, would be encouraged to fill up the vacancies.
But the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), the government office that licenses nurses and other professionals except lawyers, was receptive to the proposal.
In a recent radio interview, PRC Commissioner Jose Cueto Jr. said the PRC would work with the departments of Health and Labor and Employment to come up with a concept paper to accommodate Herbosa’s plan.
Setting aside the issue on its legality, the hiring proposal would, aside from alleviating the lack of nurses in public hospitals, give those nurses extended on-the-job exposure that could be helpful when they take the board exam again and, at the same time, provide them with some income to meet their daily needs.
In some areas of business or professions that require passing a government licensure test, the hiring of individuals who are just awaiting the results of their exams makes good business sense.
Thus, for example, some law offices employ law graduates who had just taken the bar exams, or failed to make the grade earlier but plan to take them again, as “paralegals” to do research work and other related tasks except sign pleadings or represent clients in court.The same situation also goes for some engineering and maritime companies where recent graduates awaiting the release of the results of their licensure tests (and who go by the name “cadet engineers”) are assigned to perform work that is related to their education under the guidance of a supervisor.
That arrangement cuts both ways. The employer gets the benefit of fresh ideas and first-time work interest at lower costs from the new hires, while the latter get hands-on learning experience (with pay) which would be useful in their future employment or entrepreneurial plans.
In many cases, if they pass the licensure exam and did their work well during their internship, they are taken in by their employers with an upward adjustment in pay.
Although of a lesser degree, that setup is analogous to the apprenticeship and learner programs that employers are, under the Labor Code, allowed to implement subject to compliance with certain requirements about the age, work period and length of service of the apprentices and learners.
Except for the fact that the health or well-being of hospital patients is directly involved, Herbosa’s proposal is no different in concept from the employment systems earlier mentioned.
The apprehension that unlicensed nurses may put at risk the life of the patients is addressed by condition that the former shall work only under the supervision of board-certified nurses.
The latter would have to see to it that the “apprentice nurses” under their wings correctly and promptly perform their assignments. If anything goes wrong, the supervising nurse could find himself or herself in serious trouble.
Besides, it is doubtful if the unlicensed nurses would consider going beyond their assigned tasks or disobeying the instructions of their superiors because doing so would put a black mark on their performance record and, in the process, adversely affect their admission to the nursing profession.
There is no question the lack of nurses in public and private hospitals has reached a near crisis situation. Going through the legislative mill to address it would be time-consuming and there is no assurance that a new law would provide the solution.
Herbosa’s proposal may look too radical for comfort, but, as the saying, goes “grandes problemas, grandes remedios (big problems, big remedies).” INQ
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