MANILA, Philippines - The number of Filipino nurses taking up the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) fell by 28% in the first quarter of the year compared to a year ago, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) reported Sunday.
TUCP secretary-general Ernesto Herrera said only 3,024 Filipino nurses took the NCLEX for the first time from January to March, down 1,170 from 4,194 in the same quarter of 2009. The NCLEX is an examination for the licensing of nurses in the United States. It is administered by the US National Council of State Boards of Nursing Inc.
"We are around 2006 levels in terms of the number of Filipino nurses taking the NCLEX for the first time and indicating their desire to enter the US nursing profession," said Herrera, former chairman of the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development.
Herrera said many recession-hit American employers are still reluctant to hire additional skilled foreign workers, including nurses.
"Instead of recruiting new practitioners, many American hospitals are simply asking their existing nursing staff to work extra," Herrera said.
Herrera said American employers are struggling to cope with massive tax revenue shortfalls and stiff budget cuts. He said funding constraints are affecting community hospitals and nursing homes run by state and city governments.
Due to the weak labor market in America, he said a growing number of Filipino nurses are seeking foreign employment opportunities elsewhere.
Here at home, Herrera also noted that the rush to obtain a nursing degree appears to have temporarily waned.
In Cebu, for instance, he said nursing schools that aggressively expanded their capacity in the last 12 months "have realized that fewer first-year students are actually entering nursing programs" compared to a year or two ago.
A total of 15,382 Filipino nurses took the NCLEX for the first time in the whole of 2009, down 5,364 or 26% from 20,746 in 2008.
In 2007, a total of 21,499 Filipino nurses took the NCLEX for the first time, up 6,328 or 42% from 15,171 in 2006. The 2006 figures were up 65% or 5,990 compared to the 9,181 Filipino nurses that took the NCLEX for the first time in 2005.
Over the last five years, a total of 81,979 Filipino nurses took the NCLEX for the first time.