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Demystifying English Exams for Foreign-Educated Healthcare Professionals 

By Kara
|Nov 24, 2023

In this live session, Kara Murphy and Ervin Nil Temporal, Founder & CEO 9.0 Niner dissect English exams for foreign-educated nurses. They dive deep into the assessment process, which competencies are vital for US employers to look for and how to ensure quality in healthcare staffing. 


Ervin, founder and CEO of 9.0 Niner, gives a detailed walk through the world of English exams. He addresses some of the key concerns of US employers when hiring international nurses with actionable strategies and tips. Kara and Ervin discuss the role of English competency in delivering quality patient care. Watch the live session to assess whether healthcare providers should confidently welcome internationally educated nurses.

Start of Video 


Kara Murphy (0:02) 

All right. Hello, Ervin. 


Ervin (0:05) 

Hi, Ms. Kara. 


Kara Murphy (0:06) 

Thank you so much for joining. We just had a great Facebook Live with all of the nurses, and you provided such great information about the different English exams. 


And now we’re gonna switch it up a little bit. And we are going to be talking with different leaders and managers in healthcare organizations in the United States who are really just curious about, like, what does it take to come over? And what is the preparation? And, Ervin, I think about when we first talk with organizations, if they have never done international recruiting, one of the first questions is like, can they speak English? Will they be able to read English and all of that? 


So, we’ll go in today about the visa screen and the requirements and the testing. But I would love for you first, Ervin, to just share a little bit about 9.0 Niner. Right? Your story’s fascinating. 


Ervin (1:05) 

Okay. So hello, everyone. I’m Irvin A. Temporal, the founder and CEO of 9.0 Niner, the English review center based in the Philippines. So, we started in 2007. And primarily during that time, the majority of our interviewees were actually nurses and doctors going through the United States of America. So yes, at that point, we actually reached the peak of nursing because that was when almost every Filipino college student took up BS nursing because they wanted to go to the United States of America. And for the longest time, it was just IELTS. 


So, one thing that a lot of people do not know is that this is not just your English examination. Like you have to be verbose, or you need to use big words to impress the examiner. What people do not understand is that IELTS is a test of communication. And what’s most important is you have to be understood. So in speaking, don’t visualize yourself as if you’re in a formal interview or that you’re talking to the judge or that you’re talking to the high school principal. All you have to do is visualize the examiner as your dinner date. So it has to be casual and conversational. 


And for writing, it’s not as if you are going to write a winning essay. All you have to do is mention your opinion and make sure that you’re presenting it in such a way that it’s easy to understand. 


So basically, that’s the most important skills, apart from listening and reading, that the candidates need to showcase when they take the examination. And that’s exactly what the center is for. We prepare the candidates in order for them to speak well, in order for them to write with substance when they take the examination. 


Kara Murphy (2:49) 

That’s great! And Ervin, how many professionals, healthcare professionals, have you all supported that have passed English exams? 


Ervin (2:58)   

Well, in another recording, we’ve talked about the number of nurses and professionals that we have helped since we launched the online platform in 2020, and that’s roughly 50,000. However, we were not able to keep track of the professionals we helped when we offered on-site classes from 2007 to 2019. So, if we’ve been able to help 50,000 in the last three years, maybe the numbers should be more than double from 2007 to 2019. And don’t get me wrong; 9.0 Niner is not just for nurses but basically for everyone applying for fiancée visa, spouse visa, immigrant visa, working visa, and student visa going to the US, UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand. 


Kara Murphy (3:42) 

I love that. That is a huge amount of people; you all should be very proud of the impact you’ve made. And I know we absolutely love partnering with you. So, thank you for all the support with the PRS nurses and medical technologists. So, Ervin, share a little bit about the visa screen and why the English test is part of that. 


Ervin (4:07) 

So, when I started teaching in 2006, not every institution required English examinations. Though, it’s just that there were stakeholders who found it difficult for some nurses to communicate. Say, for instance, I’m from the Philippines, and I know for a fact that for most patients, we usually do not speak unless we are asked. So, when some of these nurses arrived in the United States, they were seen as shy, timid, but actually, they’re not. It’s just that it’s not part of our culture to communicate. So maybe that was when the English examination became a requirement not just for healthcare workers but also for skilled workers, those applying for a student visa, and even those who are going to marry their fiancée or spouse. 


Because for these high-stakes English examinations, you must be expressive. Again, you’re not doing this to impress the person you are talking to, but you must express. So perhaps this is the reason why more and more institutions require English examinations to see how well these people are able to communicate. So that when they start working or studying in these countries mentioned, they fit just right in. So, that’s the basic premise why English examinations are required not just for the visa screen but for these countries in general. 


Kara Murphy (5:23) 

That’s great. And the visa screen is really a requirement for the immigration process of internationally educated professionals. So, it helps to verify that healthcare professionals are qualified, competent, and ready to go into the United States. And then part of that is the education piece of it. And then part of it is the English piece of it as well. So, thank you for that. 


And it might be of value to share; what does a healthcare professional have to go through to prepare for the English exam? Because English is a primary language in the Philippines, right? So, what is the preparation for these exams? 


Ervin (6:04) 

What most people do not know is they feel that, “okay, if I just watch YouTube, I will automatically pass the exam.” It’s actually not like that. Because in the writing component, there is what we call a suggested format, such that if what they write is not in line with the standards or expectations of IELTS, they may not be able to get a high band score, especially for the first two criteria: task achievement, and the other one is coherence. They know how to communicate in English, but we’re taken aback when they’re asked questions that they’re totally unfamiliar with. 


So, what we do during the review proper is to expose them to as many actual questions and topics as we can, and we encourage them to talk. So, we don’t provide them with templates or memorized answers because at the end of the day, that defeats the purpose of communication. What we’re trying to do is bring out the best in them when they’re provided with a specific topic. Say, for instance, in real life, we might be talkative. But when we’re asked questions about globalization, space traveling, e-learning, or artificial intelligence, others just talk about it, blah, blah, blah, without substance anymore. So that’s what we’re trying to build in them—the idea, the confidence, and how to deliver. That’s when 9.0 Niner enters the picture. 


Kara Murphy (7:25) 

That’s great. So really, all of these healthcare professionals that are coming over internationally, they are prepared with their English language in written language, reading comprehension, and spoken language, right? And there’s a lot to it to prepare. 


How many months would you say is typically, typically needed? 


Ervin (7:47) 

For the United States, it’s two to three months. I’d say more in Australia because Australia requires the highest band scores. But for the United States, two to three months will do. 


Kara Murphy (7:58) 

That’s interesting. I did not know that. That’s very interesting. So that’s great. So it really gives assurance that as they’re coming over, they’re ready to take on everything that’s needed to be a nurse in the United States or a medical technologist or other healthcare professional in the United States. 


So beyond English, are there any communication tips that you recommend that go beyond just the language? 


Ervin (8:26) 

So, I’d like to recommend this to my fellow Asians. Try as much as you can to speak up, don’t just talk when you’re asked. Because sometimes, other nationalities feel that we’re okay. But sometimes we are not; it’s just that we’re not speaking up. So, we’d have to know that in the United States, people are actually expected to voice out their opinion. So, if you feel that this is not the right thing to do when you’re in Asia, it might not be the case in the United States. So, we have to be familiar with that cultural difference. 


So, it’s also important to get some help from the hospitals or the stakeholders or the employers. If there are seminars like that, that will help them better understand the cultural differences, and then it’ll be easier for our medical professionals to work in the United States. 


Kara Murphy (9:16) 

That’s a great tip. And what would you recommend to the hospital manager to support the nurses in speaking up? Is there anything you recommend? 


Ervin (9:28)   

Or maybe, before the nurses go to the United States, there can be, perhaps, like a group on WhatsApp. Or perhaps there can be Zoom meetings or StreamYard meetings from time to time just for them to speak up. Because it starts from there. Yeah. Just open communication. Freestyle speaking. 


Kara Murphy (9:49) 

I love that! And we have a lot of organizations that are doing town halls or they’re meeting on Zoom once a month to be able to connect. And that’s great! I never thought of it. That’s a time to also practice the English and all of that. And, you know, with some states having different dialects as well. So, that’s great. 


Well, Ervin, as always, thank you so much for all the support that you give to so many healthcare professionals in obtaining their dream of going to whatever country they’re going to and preparing. So, thank you so much. Bye! 


End of Video