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The challenges and rewards of a most meaningful job

Confessions of a Filipina nurse working overseas


By Eunice Manlangit

Filipina nurse1

As a nurse, I didn’t have a lot of opportunities in the Philippines. I always thought that studying in a good nursing school, having good grades, and passing the licensure exam with high scores would guarantee that I would be able to get a stable nursing job in any hospital or clinic I apply to. In the end, it was a very disappointing and frustrating experience.

For most of us who pursued this degree, it is very common to work as a volunteer nurse for at least two years. You don’t get salary but at least you get experience. A lot of nurses accept this set up just so they can leverage the experience in order to work abroad.

I have also tried working as a volunteer nurse for a few months in a government municipality hospital. It was okay, except that according to their protocol, after volunteering, I had to stop working and wait for some time to see if they would hire me as a regular staff nurse. That process involved knowing someone from inside the administrative community that could help give your application a boost, in typical Filipino “palakasan” fashion. It involved a lot of politics, which I couldn’t stand.

Filipina nurse2

After that attempt, I tried applying again. This time to one of the most popular and expensive hospitals in Metro Manila. From the onset, the security guard himself wouldn’t let me and my fellow applicants go directly to the HR office. He asked for our CV and board rating certificate. We were told that applicants with a rating below 80 percent would not be allowed to go past him. This was all very sad and a poor way to treat people who worked hard for their certificate. I was lucky enough to get invited for an interview, though several of my peers didn’t. I got accepted for an initial three-month training as an ER nurse, without salary. But by then, I thought, enough was enough. I decided I simply couldn’t work without getting paid anymore.

In my experience working as a nurse in the Philippines, I will be honest enough to admit that I earned P12,000. I’ve heard of nurses earning as low as P10,000 in a private hospital, while those from government hospitals (considered the lucky ones) earned between P8,000 to P21,000, but that’s only for nurses who have been in service for several years.

Eventually, I decided to leave because of this prevailing situation. It’s not easy for nurses as the common ratio is only one nurse for every 30 patients. That is the norm. It is often a lot worse in provincial hospitals. I admit I also wanted to explore a different country with a different culture and see other opportunities in other fields. But essentially, I couldn’t stand the depressing healthcare setting in the country.

So I packed my bags and went to Abu Dhabi. That was several years ago.

Today, I am currently working as a registered nurse in the field of dermatology/aesthetics and specializing in laser treatments. I am a certified laser technician at a medical center. I get a pretty good salary with less stress and fewer responsibilities and more time and freedom than staff nurses working in shifts at hospitals. I also get to be more independent with my practice.

I want to end with a message for the people who are considering taking up nursing: You have to be 100 percent sure that nursing is something that you truly want, not just something that your parents want for you, because it will eventually take a toll on you. Make sure it’s something you are passionate about. You have to be able to genuinely care for other people and at the same time care for your own wellbeing.

More important, if you are someone who is business-minded, adventurous, and desire a lot of independence, then nursing is not for you. Nursing requires a special kind of dedication and hard work. The work timings will never be as flexible as you want them to be. But if, with all that in mind, this is still a path you want to pursue then I will say that it is truly one of the most rewarding and meaningful jobs in the world.

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