CHED’s Call to Phase Out Nursing Schools: A Little Too Late

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We can’t blame Commission on Higher Education (CHED) for tagging Nursing as one of the “oversubscribed courses” if we have to believe its recent report about the number of registered nurses in the Philippines already reaching a whopping 400,000 this year. And while the rate of nursing enrollment is slowly plummeting the past few years, isn’t CHED’s call to close down several low-performing schools a little too late? Why did they have to wait for the nursing population to reach this all-time high before employing such drastic act? Without any doubt, CHED is once again proving itself to be  just another supposed-to-be-proactive-government-agency gone awry.

According to reports, a total of 200 nursing schools were existent before the year 2006, the period when a sudden surge in nursing enrollment was gradually becoming more and more evident. Today, that number doubled to 400 nursing schools, including, of course, those low-performing schools mainly corrupted by money-collecting principles. For this reason, the number of nursing schools has become directly proportional to the number of nursing graduates produced every year. As a matter of fact, a total of 2,000,000 students enrolled in the Nursing course from the year 2000 up to 2010. The quantity of Filipino nursing students, however, has been inversely proportional to the quality of nursing education provided by our nursing schools. This phenomenon became more eminent when the December 2010 Nursing Licensure Exam got the lowest passing rate ever recorded in the history of the said exam. But how on earth did it all happened when CHED has been existent to regulate the nursing schools being established in the country? Are they all jackass that they had not foreseen that this overpopulation would happen in the near future? Pardon my french but the recent  CHED regulation is a little too late to give a sensible remedy for the present unemployment and underemployment suffered by our nurses.

According to Dean Carmelita Divina Gracia of UERMMC (University of the East-Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center) College of Nursing, which is one of CHED’s center of excellence in Nursing, the continued decline of nursing education can be attributed to the fact that there are more nursing schools available than actual hospitals capable of accommodating  nursing students. “We consider Nusing to be at the bed side. We don’t acquire the competencies in the classroom setting. It has to be done in the community and hospital setting”, she said in an interview with GMA News. She also added that “Dapat bawasan ang non-performing schools ngayon.” It’s a frustrating truth that our country is able to generate more nursing schools than quality hospitals.

BON member Marco Antonio Sto. Tomas also added: “Minsan nga hindi na makapagpahinga yung mga pasyente sa dami ng mga nursing students. Dapat tanggalin na ang mga dapat matanggal but give chance to other schools that deserve to stay.”

CHED, which will start a two month-long detailed review of all nursing schools starting this month, said that those nursing schools with  <30% passing rate and without minimum qualifications like a college dean and skills lab will be a candidate for a phase-out. They also added that “voluntary phase-out” will be accepted upon school’s discretion.

The bloated nursing supply has been a product of both false advertisements and weak government regulations in the past. And since the number of registered nurses will just stay there no matter how we involve ourselves in various finger-pointing and blame-mongering activities, what is left for us to do now  is to support government projects intended to provide nurses the necessary skills for a better career opportunities in the near future. Closing down non-performing nursing schools is a must but the government should be equally concerned in providing more employment opportunities for our angels in distress.