More want to be doctors as global demand for nurses declines

By SAMUEL P. MEDENILLA
August 22, 2010, 4:57pm

Amid the decline in the global demand for Filipino nurses, more graduates of science-related courses are now pursuing a degree in medicine, the Board of Medicine said over the weekend.

Board of Medicine member Jose Cueto said the lessening of employment opportunities for nurses abroad seems to have contributed to the increase in National Medical Admission Test (NMAT) examinees.

The NMT is a requirement for undergraduates seeking a degree in medicine.

Six years ago when there was a high demand for nurses abroad, the Board of Medicine noted a sharp decline in medicine students.

“During the time when nursing was at the top on the list of (preferred courses by) students, there was a sharp decline on the number of students taking the National Medical Admission Test,” Cueto said.

However, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) noted a reduction in the demand of nurses abroad.

Based on recent statistics from the POEA , the number of professional nurses deployed to other countries only increased by 6.71% from 12,618 to 13, 465 in 2009; as compared to the rate in 2008 when migrant nurses rose by 40.13% from 9,004 to 12,618.

Earlier, reports by the POEA showed that the trend was due to the global economic recession which reduced the demands of Filipino nurse in some countries like the United States, Canada, Kuwait, Quatar and Taiwan, and the increasing number of competing nurses from other countries like Pakistan, India, and some African nations.

“Doctors used to take nursing course, now it’s the nursing graduates who are taking medicine. The reverse education has been reversed,” Cuteto said.

Nursing, together with other health-related courses like physical therapy and medical technology are considered as some of the best preparatory courses for medicine.

A 2009 report by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) showed that among the three courses, nursing is considered as most popular with 77,898 examinees, followed by medical technology (2,270), and then physical therapy (1,347).

Cueto said the decrease in the employment opportunities for nursing students contributed to the increase in the number of examinees in the medical board exam and the NMAT.

“Now the Center for Educational Measurement, Inc. which gives the NMAT, says there is now an increasing number of NMAT-takers,” Cueto said.

However, despite the increasing number in registered doctors, the board said it would still not be enough to address the lack of doctors in rural areas, since they would usually prefer to practice their profession abroad.

“Even if we increase the number of medical students, the problem is that many of them are still going abroad and for those who choose to stay in the country they usually only stay in the metropolitan areas,” Cueto said.

Aside from Cueto, the meeting last Friday was attended by PRC Chairman Nicolas Lapeña Jr. and three of the six members of the Board of Medicine, which includes its chairwoman Mildred Pareja, Miguel Noche Jr., Restituto De Ocampo.

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