The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) plans to discuss the possibility of implementing a return service program with state universities and colleges (SUCs) offering nursing programs. This initiative aims to address the shortage of nurses in the Philippines due to migration.
The Problem of Nurse Shortage
President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has instructed CHED to address the country’s nursing shortage, which affects local healthcare services. CHED Chairman Prospero de Vera III revealed that they will consider implementing a return service program, especially in schools with government subsidies.
Government Subsidies and Return Service
According to De Vera, if the government funds the education of nursing grads, they can attach certain provisions to their subsidy. The return service program will be discussed with SUCs, as the government covers the tuition and miscellaneous fees of nursing students. Furthermore, scholarships and additional stipends can be provided to nursing students with attached return service agreements.
Private Schools and Scholarship Programs
Implementing a return service program in private schools might be challenging, as they are not subsidized by the government. However, De Vera mentioned that it could be possible if private institutions have scholarship programs for nursing students.
Doktor Para sa Bayan Act as a Model
The Doktor Para sa Bayan Act, which grants scholarships to deserving Filipino students in medical schools, provides free required textbooks, uniforms, and living allowances. After graduating and passing licensure examinations, the scholar must fulfill the mandatory return service agreement by serving their hometown or any underserved municipality determined by the Department of Health. If they don’t, they are required to pay twice the full cost of the scholarship.
Addressing the Healthcare Manpower Issue
During the Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) Healthcare Sector group meeting, President Marcos emphasized the need for clever healthcare manpower strategies, as the country produces top-quality nurses. CHED data from 2022 reveals that 51.2% of 617,898 Filipino nurses licensed to practice served as migrant health workers.
CHED has already implemented several interventions to address the nursing shortage, including retooling board non-passers, adopting a nursing curriculum with exit credentials, redirecting non-practicing nurses, conducting exchange programs, and upskilling and reskilling future nurses. They are also working on flexible short-term masteral programs to address the lack of instructors in nursing and medical schools.
Filipino Nurses and Doctors: World Class Graduates
De Vera stated that Filipino nurses and doctors are world class, as their curriculum meets international standards. They pass the required licensure tests, making it inevitable for them to be in high demand globally. He emphasized that the country should be proud of its graduates.
To combat the nursing shortage in the Philippines, CHED plans to discuss the implementation of a return service program with SUCs offering nursing programs. This initiative aims to ensure that the nation’s healthcare system benefits from the world-class expertise of Filipino nursing grads.