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Many Filipino nurses dream of coming to the US to advance their careers and support their families. As a result, a notable percentage of them serve on the frontlines of American healthcare facilities. 

In this blog, we’ll look into Filipino nurse’s significant impact on US healthcare historically and during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ll cover the long-standing reliance on Filipino nurses to fill critical gaps in the US healthcare system. 

Let’s recognize and celebrate their heroism and resilience while recognizing the pressing importance of enhancing their working conditions and offering steadfast support in their roles as essential frontline healthcare workers. 

The Filipino Nurses’ Presence in the USA: A View of When It Started 

Beginning in 1898, let’s discover the historical roots behind the substantial presence of Filipino nurses in American hospitals and healthcare facilities. 

Westernized Healthcare Systems and American Nursing Education 

As part of the Treaty of Paris, the US acquired the Philippine archipelago from Spain following the Spanish-American War. During this period, the Philippines only had a limited number of hospitals and clinics. The soldiers faced widespread diseases, prompting American forces to initiate developing the country’s healthcare system.  

This led to the creation of Western-style medical systems and nursing schools like Saint Paul’s Hospital School of Nursing, Iloilo Mission Hospital School of Nursing, and the Philippine General Hospital School of Nursing. 

Soon, certain elite Filipino nurses managed to travel to the United States to enhance their skills through practice. Upon returning to the Philippines, these nurses secured their status by taking on roles once held by American nursing supervisors and faculty members at training hospitals and nursing colleges.¹ 

The Exchange Visitor Program (EVP) 

The US established the EVP in 1948, which invited foreigners to study and gain work experience in the US for up to two years. 

During the Cold War, the EVP urged participants to bring American ideology and culture back to their home countries. This period aligned with post-World War II nursing shortages, as nurses left their jobs, citing terrible working conditions and low wages. 

American hospitals seized the opportunity presented by the EVP to enlist Filipino nurses to address the vacancies left by departing American nurses. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), implemented in 1965, allowed migrant nurses to secure permanent residency in the United States. 

The Dedication and Sacrifice of Filipino Nurses During the COVID-19 Pandemic 

When COVID-19 emerged, Filipino nurses were on the front lines. Studies published in the Gender, Work & Organization journal reveal that Filipino nurses, in comparison to their White counterparts, often find themselves in high-exposure areas like intensive care units (ICUs) with COVID-19 patients.²

Many Filipino nurses provided round-the-clock care, exposing themselves to heavy viral loads. Despite the challenges, these nurses consistently chose service and duty. For instance, nurses like Celia Yap-Banago and Rosary Castro-Olega, returned from retirement to lend their expertise.  

This dedication places them at higher risk. Despite comprising 4% of the registered nursing population in the US,³ a staggering 30% of nurse deaths have been Filipinos, including Filipino Americans born in the US.⁴

Read More: How the Pandemic Has Affected Nurses’ Mental Health 

Why Trust Filipino Nurses to Care for You 

Filipino nurses are highly regarded for their exceptional skills, compassionate caregiving, and steadfast dedication to their patients. 

From a young age, they are instilled with values like prioritizing the group’s well-being, a strong work ethic, and respect for authority. They embody the essential qualities in the nursing world’s demanding and hierarchical field.  

Faith is also a central pillar for many Filipinos, and Catholicism’s core values, such as service and care for the less fortunate, are taken to heart and actively practiced. These values guide Filipino nurses, which is why they are known for their compassionate bedside manner and exceptional clinical skills. This combination contributes to better patient outcomes and heightened overall patient satisfaction. 

They are also highly sought after for their competence and exceptional work ethic. Their versatility and adaptability enable them to seamlessly integrate into various healthcare systems, bridging cultural gaps and enhancing the overall patient care experience. 

Furthermore, high-quality Filipino nursing education, influenced by Western nursing practices, enables them to quickly adapt to their facilities’ and US patients’ needs. 

Read More: Your Healthcare Facility Needs Filipino Nurses and Here’s Why 

Celebrating Filipino Nurses in the USA 

Supporting Filipino nurses and showing them how much you appreciate their work can encourage them to stay at your facility longer. Here are some ways you can show your support. 

Build Community Through Nurse Networks 

Networking is not just about discovering new opportunities; it’s also about forging connections with fellow nurses and gaining valuable insights. 

Participating in or organizing nurse networking events can assist Filipino nurses in building relationships with others. These interactions may inspire nurses to explore different specialties and roles within the nursing field, some of which may be available within your facility. 

Promote Open Communication and Wellbeing 

Open and frequent communication between nurses and employers is key for mutual understanding and supporting nurse wellbeing. It’s essential that nurses feel at ease discussing work-life balance and mental health and having their efforts acknowledged. 

Employers can foster this by maintaining regular check-ins, using anonymous surveys, and being open to feedback. Collaborative solutions such as flexible scheduling, access to counseling resources, and mental health days can be explored together. This mutual recognition of each other’s needs creates a supportive environment for everyone involved. 

Keep Skills Sharp With Continuing Education (CE) 

Continuing Education is essential to a nurse’s career development and mandatory for renewing licensing in most states. 

As a nurse, look for opportunities to pursue CEs that allow you to expand your knowledge and skills. Consider topics that interest you or would make you more valuable in your current role. Your employer may cover some or all of the costs of CE courses and conferences as an incentive and investment in you. 

As an employer, supporting nurses’ continuing education demonstrates your commitment to their growth. Consider paying for CE courses, conferences, and materials that apply to nurses’ roles. This investment helps nurses learn new skills, feel valued, and provide updated knowledge that ultimately improves patient care. 

Related Reading: Is Continuing Education Worthwhile for Global Nurses? 

Advocate for Proper Nurse Staffing and Resources 

Adequate nurse staffing ensures safe patient outcomes and reasonable workloads. Nurses play a crucial role in this advocacy, highlighting the significance of appropriate staffing ratios and the availability of essential resources to deliver optimal care. Employers, in turn, should actively listen and respond to these concerns, placing patient care at the forefront of their operational strategies. 

Additionally, paying nurses competitively shows we value their crucial work. Meeting their staffing needs, resources, and fair pay improves patient care and makes nurses feel trusted and satisfied. This mutual support leads to a better and more effective healthcare system. 

Show Interest in Their Culture 

Cultural exchange activities allow nurses to share their backgrounds while educating colleagues. Nurses can offer insights into Filipino healthcare practices and values that enhance care.  

Meanwhile, employers can encourage open dialogue through diversity training, celebrations of Filipino culture, and creating inclusive spaces. You may also ask them about the differences and similarities between a facility in the Philippines and the one you belong to now. Ask about their experiences and show genuine curiosity about their stories.  

Making the effort to understand diverse perspectives leads to stronger bonds and a more accepting workplace. 

Show Appreciation to the Filipino Nurses You Know 

Filipino nurses have been through a lot, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re a Filipino nurse, take a moment to recognize your efforts. If you know Filipino nurses, thank them and highlight their positive impact on your shared healthcare facility. 

Related Reading: Your Healthcare Facility Needs Filipino Nurses and Here’s Why 

PRS GLOBAL HONORS FILIPINO NURSES  

Acknowledging the significant impact of Filipino nurses in the American healthcare system is essential. Whether you’re a nurse seeking new opportunities or an employer looking to enhance your workforce, PRS Global is your partner in connecting with top-notch nursing professionals from the Philippines. 

We streamline the process, ensuring a smooth transition for both nurses and employers. Get in touch with us today to learn more about our services. 

References 

1 Cachero, Paulina. “From AIDS to COVID-19, America’s Medical System Has a Long History of Relying on Filipino Nurses to Fight on the Frontlines.” TIME, 30 May 2021, time.com/6051754/history-filipino-nurses-us/

2 Nazareno, Jennifer, et al. “From Imperialism to Inpatient Care: Work Differences of Filipino and White Registered Nurses in the United States and Implications for COVID-19 through an Intersectional Lens.” WILEY Online Library, 4 Apr. 2021, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gwao.12657

3 “New Report Reveals Continued Government Failure to Track and Report Data on Covid-19 Deaths of Nurses and Other Health Care Workers.” National Nurses United, 18 Mar. 2021, www.nationalnursesunited.org/press/new-report-reveals-continued-government-failure-to-track-and-report-covid-19-deaths-of-nurses. 

4 Shoichet, Catherine E. “Covid-19 is taking a devastating toll on Filipino American nurses.” CNN, 11 Dec. 2020, 10:54 AM EST, https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/11/us/filipino-nurses-covid-19/index.html.