RN-HEALS Program: Another “Band-Aid” Solution?


Last 2010, the Department of Health (DOH) in collaboration with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) catapulted an employment-generating project for thousands of Filipino registered nurses who were either underemployed or unemployed. Dubbed as “RN-HEALS” (Registered Nurses for Health Enhancement and Local Service), the latest program is a far cry from its previous version (NARS project) last 2009 which only provided 6 months of combined community and hospital experience. It was estimated that it would provide almost 200, 000 Filipino registered nurses an opportunity to gain one year of comprehensive clinical experience. However, only a meager 25,000 (or less) registered nurses got the chance to work during the previous two batches, failing to keep up with the current growth of unemployed/underemployed nurses in the country, which is about to reach its half a million mark this year. Given the present scenario, is RN-HEALS enough to solve both issues of health deficits and nursing unemployment in the country? Or is it just another “band-aid” solution from a hard working government equally overwhelmed by our growing number of nurses? 

Delayed Compensation

During the first three months after the program commenced last February, 2011, DOH was flooded with rants from nurses complaining about the delayed release of their monthly stipends. According to Department Order 2011-0239 of the Department of Health, successful applicants shall receive 8,000 PHP  each month while midwives will receive 6,000 pesos per month. Also, the Local Government Units will give successful applicants an amount of 2,000 pesos in addition to other benefits like PhilHealth Insurance of 1,200 pesos per year, Group Accident Insurance enrollment of 500 pesos per year, and certificate of completion after satisfactory completion of the project. But the issue lies on whether all of these mentioned benefits are  evenly distributed or not. DOH Assistant Secretary Dr. Eric Tayag cleared that the issue of delayed stipend last year started on the ‘budget system’ of the DoH and in the “processes” related to it which has been fixed since then. However, the persistence of this issue has been reported in some parts of the country, strongly indicating that the root cause of the problem still remains up to now.

Nepotism and the The Undying “Backer System”

When RN-HEALS Batch 2 was launched late 2011, a lot of hopefuls were dismayed due to several changes  made on the application process. The online application was abolished and only selected tertiary hospitals of DOH were open for RN-HEALS application. And to add further insult to a lot of fresh nursing graduates, high priority was given to those who already volunteered on the participating hospitals. Some frustrated nurses also blurted out that a fair chance for them to be accepted dwindled even more because the new application process increased the vulnerability of the RN-HEALS program to be dominated by those who rely most on nepotism and the notorious “backer system”. Furthermore, it has also been confirmed that previous participants from the first batch were able to extend their contract to work for another year or two, killing the hopes of those who are still waiting for an equal chance of clinical exposure. This phenomenon has resulted in a seemingly unequal distribution of opportunities for nurses hoping to be part of the said program.

RN-HEALS Batch 3

Despite flaws and unresolved issues, the RN-HEALS Batch 3 is said to be opening its doors once more for another 1,900 registered nurses this new year. Dr. Sofia S. Chua, the chief of the Field Health Operations of DOH-CHD 6, disclosed the news in their consultative meeting for technical updates along with their media partners held in Iloilo City. This is to augment the human resource need for skilled and experience nurses that will serve in rural communities. According to reports, here’s how you can apply for the said program:

Prepare and attach the following documents and email them at: [email protected]

  • Application Letter
  • Curriculum Vitae/Resume
  • Transcript of Record
  • PRC License

And use the format below as your subject:


*For more information about RNHEALS 3 application, follow this link: http://nurseslabs.com/5381/rnheals-3-to-employ-more-nurses-this-2012/

With the current number of registered nurses jostling their way for an equal opportunity to gain clinical experience, it is crystal clear that the RN-HEALS project remains insufficient and incapable of providing  long-term remedy for thousands of nurses hungry for a regular employment. The irony of our country’s poor health status and bloated nursing supply is something not to be taken for granted. This is not a wake-up call to totally ban the nursing course but rather, a predicament that calls for the government to generate more feasible nursing opportunities and for thousands of registered nurses to persevere, work hard, and be creative in supporting one’s self. Sooner or later, a viable cure, and not just a “band-aid” solution, will be on its way for our beloved nurses.