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May 30th
Home Sections History A Partial History of Filipino Nurses in Europe (and in Arkansas, too)
A Partial History of Filipino Nurses in Europe (and in Arkansas, too) PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 14 September 2007 05:23

Editor's Note: Bobby Reyes published the following narrative in November 2000 in the now-defunct It may be worth reprinting it, so as to start a compilation of the history and track record of Filipino nurses in Europe. As a bonus, the first-person article told by Ms. Elsa Bayani actually tells also the history of Filipino nurses in Arkansas, U.S.A.


Filipino Nurses in Wales, United Kingdom

Ms. Angie Shreckengaust, the prime mover of the Bicolano, reported on Oct. 22, 2000, a news article from the BBC News about the arrival of the Filipino nurses in Wales. The full report can still be accessed at:

Here's the BBC News report:

Filipino nurses arrive in Wales

The recruitment of Filipino nurses is controversial.

A group of nurses recruited in the Philippines to work at an under-staffed hospital have arrived in Wales. Seen by some health observers as a controversial step, the recruitment drive comes ahead of warnings of winter nursing shortages.

Twenty-two Filipino nurses arrived earlier this month to begin work at Morriston Hospital, Swansea.

A second group of 27 nurses will begin a week of orientation before starting work on the wards.

Earlier this month, a senior health academic warned that hiring nurses from the Far East would not work as a quick fix for hospital staffing shortages.

Dame June Clarke, Professor of Community Nursing at Swansea University, said Wales's hospital wards could face another winter of discontent.

She said the hiring of Filipino nurses by Morriston Hospital in Swansea to fill vacancies was "certainly not the answer".

"We need to be able to use our own resources, not stripping those from poor countries that need them.


The first of a group of 50 Filipino nurses are to begin work in south Wales to help a hospital Trust avert a staffing crisis.

The Royal College of Nursing said the use of 50 Filipino nurses in Wales was only a short-term answer. The RCN has estimated that up to 2,000 new nurses are needed if Welsh hospitals are to avoid a major crisis.

It is calling on the assembly to address the issue as a matter of urgency.

Filipino nurses are already working in Britain, the first batch arriving nearly two years ago - mainly in the south east of England - but a group was also employed by Llandough Hospital, near Cardiff.

The RCN said Ceredigion NHS Trust was trying to recruit in Spain.

The foreign nurses will be paid the same as their Welsh counterparts - but will be restricted to a two-year contract.

This writer said in November 2000 that the BBC News erred in saying that Filipino nurses began working in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland only in 1998. Because he happened to meet during a Filipino-American conference in Little Rock, AR, in March 2000 Ms. Elsa Bayani, a Filipino nurse who worked in the 1970s in London, England.


Elsa's Story

Ms. Elsa Bayani, who is based in Little Rock, AR, used to be the Arkansas State chapter chairperson of the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA). She spends more of her time now in Iloilo, Philippines, and Southern California. We asked Elsa to tell us her "nursing adventures" in the U.K.

Here's the story of Ms. Bayani: "About the nurses recruited for British Hospitals, I believe that they deserve to be treated as professionals without taking the British Nursing Licensure exam and be paid equal to Welsh nurses. There is a massive recruitment right now. When Tim Bayani and I were (vacationing) in London from November-December 1998, 80 Filipino nurses arrived to work at the hospital where I completed (in the 1970s) my general nursing training and passed the British board.

"As you know even in the early 1970s, the Filipino nurses have been the answer to world-wide nursing shortages. In the U.K. at that time (early 1970s) the medical authorities did not recognize Filipino RN licensure, which meant that even Filipino RNs had to undergo training in the U.K. along with those who had no nursing qualifications or background education. Like most of us (including myself) foreign nurses went through a three-year course, took the British licensing exams and became registered. There were an estimated 10,000 nurse trainees who either passed the boards or those who made it to the cut-off score for a license in a lower category (which otherwise would have required two years training only), or relegated to nursing assistants (unlicensed care givers just to keep themselves within the U.K.). In our school, of the 130 nurse trainees for a 3-year course, about 70 were Filipinos (some had nursing backgrounds from the Philippines and others were mostly school teachers or education graduates).

"In my case, I was not really desperate to train in 1974 because I was already a Personnel Transactions Examiner at the Civil Service Commission in Manila (doing computer correction of civil service examinations) and Tim was chief of the Police Department of Ballesteros, Cagayan, Philippines, from 1971-1972 and later became instructor at the National Police Commission Academy in Fort Bonifacio, Metro Manila, in 1973. Tim became also a professor in three colleges (Philippine College of Criminology, University of Manila and Ortanez University) and from time to time an invited lecturer at the Ateneo de Manila). So we had pretty good jobs with so many other fringe benefits (you know what it was like then in the Marcos era). I was a nurse in Sacramento, California, for one year from October 1971 to October 1972 and when I came back to Manila Martial Law was already declared, it being proclaimed on Sept. 21, 1972. I went back to the Civil Service Commission while Tim continued on as Administrative Training Officer of the National Police Commission Academy in Cagayan de Oro City. In July 1972, I happened to accompany my sister to a recruitment seminar for nurses for the U.K. and I listened to the presentation. I just kidded my sister that I would write to a hospital in the U.K. to apply and sure enough in three weeks, I got accepted before end of July. I promised my sister that I would investigate the situation in the U.K. so other nurses would not fall into a trap (white slavery, maid-service workers or hotel cleaners) and I would return to Manila if the situation were not ideal, as presented by the recruiter. Alas, I found it to be (ideally) true and it was very encouraging. I left for the U.K. in February 1974 to start a 3-year course and got my sister to train in the same hospital school of nursing in April 1974. The entire U.K. hospitals were littered with Filipino trainees and we were the best workers and best students so far.

"I finished a 3-year course and became registered Psychiatric Nurse and went on to general nursing school for 2 years and passed the board as State Registered Nurse for U.K. I worked at the St. Thomas's Hospital across the British Parliament at the Westminster area.

"In the late 1970s, the Arkansas State legislature passed a law granting RN licenses to all those who graduated from English-speaking countries like the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, some British territories like the Caribbean without taking U.S. Nursing board exams. The Arkansas hospital recruiters went to the U.K. and I was one of those recruited in 1981 with first-class airfare paid by Baptist Health in Arkansas. With my H-1 visa, all my five children who were in the Philippines and who were then studying at Letran, La Consolacion, Lyceum and the University of the East and my husband, Tim, were given H-2 visas (as dependents of an H-1 visa holder) and we left Sept. 21, 1981, in staggered schedules but by January 1982, all the seven of us in the family were in Arkansas.

"The same Arkansas recruiters recruited in 1974 more than 300 RNs from the Philippines in order to open the new Baptist Medical Center in Little Rock but paid them as under-board nurses with G.N. titles (Graduate Nurse) and gave them two years to pass the Arkansas State Board. Those who passed stayed and those who didn't either strayed, married, deported or went missing. Now the Arkansas Filipinos are family members of the original 300 nurses.

"In 1984 I did a research on Filipino nurses in the United States. I did my study in all the 50 states and found that of the 212 countries from where the U.S. 'imported' nurses, the Philippines was the biggest exporter and thus recognized as the 'No. 1 donor of nurses to the whole world.'

"The Filipino medical professionals have won - through their activism - a fight for the United States to recognize the Filipino medical licensure to practice medicine in this country. I feel that the Filipino nurses should also be represented by us here in United States in order for them to immigrate as professional RNs without taking U.S. boards instead of them going to the Middle Eastern countries and Europe and working as housemaids.

"I feel that the Philippines has so much knowledgeable manpower to donate to the whole world and this recruitment of nurses to work in other countries is not a short-term answer but a long-lasting and enduring investment of these countries to relieve their (medical-personnel) shortages. We are personally helping two relatives of our NaFFAA associates who could not get them over to U.S. by any excuse but we suggested that they ricochet to the U.K. before their ultimate U.S. destination so as to join them. My sister in London has obtained applications for them to file with U.K. recruitment agencies and they are now in the process of completing their requirements.

"As you know, we have a house in London under my name and my sister's and I am retired with pension for life from the U.K. government. I am actually qualified to live in U.K. with all the fringe benefits of a British retiree - i.e., free public transport passes and government program benefits like further education allowances, etc."

More Filipino Nurses in Europe

And Romeo Molina, an Austrian-based member of the Bicolano Internet Group called the, provided the more details about Filipino nurses in Europe.

Here's Romy's data: "Talking about nurses. Filipino nurses came to Europe more than 30 years ago. Here in Austria, the first batch of 20 Filipino nurses hired by the city government of Vienna came in 1973. However, some came earlier through other routes, not the POEA or its forerunner, the OEDB. There are now a handful of them who retired. Last year I met a Filipina from Sweden who has been working there, also as a nurse, for more than 30 years. Tracing these nurses makes an exciting study. I am married to a nurse; that is why . . .

"(And, there are also other interesting stories about the early Filipinos in Europe, like the 'dirty dozen' who were hired as 'cultural dancers' but ended up walking the streets of Vienna looking for work.)

"I met a couple of Bicolano nurses last year in Paris and they were working in southern U.K. and they informed me that it is true that the U.K. needs foreign nurses. Lately, Italy too has opened its doors to foreign nurses. I was there last August; and, this was the information I got from my host family whose daughter is also a nurse. Switzerland is also hiring. Some of my nurse-friends here have left for the Alps." # # #

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 December 2007 05:02

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