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Hello, new nurses

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I know you have been waiting and praying for this moment. Congratulations for passing the teeth-gnashing and knee-buckling National Licensure Exam for Nurses!

You’ve worked hard for four long years. If there is a course that is literally earned with blood, sweat and tears, this is it!

Now, you can party all night without feeling guilty. Join your alma mater’s torch parade. Take a grand vacation if you must. And when all the congratulations have faded and the parties have ended, I welcome you back to the real world.

You will now realize that:

1. To get a spot as a volunteer nurse, you have to pay up or find a powerful backer.

Getting good grades back in college doesn’t really matter in the battlefield. You may be your batch’s best in related learning experience, or even the summa cum laude, but if you don’t have the right connections, you won’t get anywhere.

2. You will be enticed to take up training courses and exams. The licenses you get from there will eventually expire even before you land your first real job.

I have friends who are US RNs (registered nurses) but have never set foot on American soil. They have IELT’s band 7 plus scores but are stuck in call centers. Some have basic life support and advance cardiac life support licenses, etc., but have never gotten to practice their skills in a hospital setting.

These licenses are expensive, yet nurses collect them like badges on a Boy/Girl Scout’s uniform. They will look impressive in your wallet and listed on your resumé, but as I said, without the right connections, these are all just learning experiences.

3. Reunions with fellow nurses are like meetings with the labor union.

All you’ll ever hear is whining about the current unemployment rate. Some are lucky to be employed or even underemployed, but they are overworked and underpaid.

When nurses gather around sipping expensive cups of coffee, they are most likely complaining about their working conditions or lack thereof. At the back of their mind, they are calculating the things they will need to sacrifice to pay off the very expensive cup of coffee they just had. Or lamenting the long hours they put in just to buy it.

4. The white uniform is not as glamorous as it once looked.

You’ll get screamed at or puked on, and you’ll even pee in your clothes after holding your bladder throughout an 8-hour shift either because there is no decent loo in the hospital you are serving or your unit is understaffed.

Your white uniform may be too tight, old and yellowed already, or your white shoes may also be showing signs of wear and tear, but you’d hate to ask your parents for money to buy new ones. After all, you have already graduated and are supposed to be “working” and earning.

5. Non-nursing service personnel receive salaries bigger than yours.

He/She has SSS, GSIS, Pag-Ibig, PhilHealth and random bonuses while you are battling viruses and bacteria without enough money for your own health insurance, vitamins, or just a disposable mask.

While working as a reliever nurse in a mall, I was paid P250 a day. To my horror, I learned that the high school graduate who was working as our agency’s secretary is paid the same amount. My friend, who is a probationary nurse, is paid P230 a day.

You went to college for four years and you have a diploma to show for it. You now also have your nurse’s license on top of your IVF, BLS, ACLS, dialysis, etc. licenses, but your service is often free. Sometimes you get paid an allowance that is less than what you got way back when you were in college.

6. Being a volunteer, probationary, reliever, contractual, or trainee nurse is not considered working experience.

How can you get out of this country without paid experience? I learned this the hard way when my application for employment in a hospital abroad was denied because I did not have paid working experience. This is the reason many of us agree to be a slave to hospitals that take advantage of our situation.

7. You need a raket to survive.

We girls need makeup and sundry toiletries. As a nurse, you have to look good and smell good. This boosts your self-esteem and self-image. Patients always want to see their nurses looking like angels. But if you are financially hard-up, how can you afford these little luxuries?

I survived my days as a volunteer by selling anything from contact lenses to scrub suits. My colleagues have other  raket  such as selling or  pautang  of pre-ordered clothes and other counterfeit goods on their online stores or in the hospital. Others do home service for intravenous glutathione injections.

We try our best to survive.

8. On night shifts and rainy days, only a few volunteers show up.

These occasions will make up your worst duties. Your staff nurse will be busy snoring while you are left to fend for yourself with over 50 patients in your ward.

The general rule is: Wake up your staff nurse only if a patient is dying. If there is no need for CPR, don’t rouse him/her from his/her sweet dreams.

9. Nurses don’t get assigned only to the ER, DR, or ward. Be prepared to work in the stock room, medical laboratory, kitchen and laundry. Sometimes you will also be assigned to perform secretarial duties.

Admit it. You are dispensable. You are a dime a dozen. If you don’t agree with the working conditions, you can leave. Many nurses will gladly take your place and do the laundry if you hate doing it. After all, there is no shortage of nurses but an oversupply of and a low demand for them.

10. You should not have followed the herd.

Everyone wanted to be a nurse way back in high school. So you wanted to be a nurse, too. The nursing students all looked gwapo and beautiful. You wanted to be one of them. Now, it’s too late. You already have a degree and your spanking new license.

Because I don’t have the financial capacity to apply for a job abroad or for a student visa, I will stay and serve our country. I have also decided to treat my career in nursing as a hobby. As in any other hobby, I will practice it because it makes me happy. But I can’t trust it to put food on my table or pay the bills that consistently haunt me every month.

Welcome to the sad reality of nursing. I just hope that your story has a happier ending.

Gerardale Ann Apa Balintec, 27, says she is overqualified, underemployed and underpaid.


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