Growing up, I wasn’t certain that nursing was my calling. My mother was a nurse, an excellent, well-respected surgical intensive care nurse. I remember her leaving before 6 am for work and coming home at 8 pm, exhausted after a long 12-hour shift. I listened with wide eyes as she told stories of running codes on fresh post-operative patients, conflicts with physicians as she advocated for specific treatments and even resuscitating a patient’s family member in the hospital lobby. While she loved her work, it was physically and emotionally demanding so she often advised me not to follow in her footsteps. And frankly, I didn’t want to be another cliché as Filipinos are practically synonymous with the profession of nursing - it’s in our blood.
When I think about my own journey in nursing, I cannot ignore the history of my culture. It is strongly rooted in the colonization of the Philippines by the United States dating back to 1898. With the Treaty of Paris ending the Spanish-American War, Spain sold the Philippines to the U.S. for $20 million. The U.S. Army then started to enlist Filipinos to work as Volunteer Auxiliary and Contract Nurses. At the turn of the century, through the Pensionado Act of 1903, Filipino student scholars were allowed to come to the U.S. for higher education, many of whom were nurses. When these nurses returned to the Philippines, they set up 17 nursing schools, taught in English, utilizing American text books and curriculums (Jurado & Saria, 2018). American-based training gave Filipino nurses an advantage and they were actively recruited due to a nursing shortage following World War II (Brice, 2019). The Exchange Visitor Program of 1948 and the 1965 amendments to the U.S. immigration laws opened the doors again to Filipino nurses and other professionals. These programs and policies provided an attractive opportunity for Filipinos, as the earning potential in the U.S. was and still is 20 times greater than salaries they could earn in the Philippines. The Filipino people are well-known for their work ethic, loyalty, compassion and dedication to caring for the sick and elderly. They were highly motivated to improve their standard of living while also supporting their families back home. An influx of immigrants filled the vacancies in nursing often at a lower cost for hospitals. Today, the number of nursing schools in the Philippines has exceeded 400 and Filipinos continue to make up the majority of foreign-trained nurses in the U.S. (Jurado & Saria, 2018).
Would this be my destiny? With a natural proclivity toward science and a genuine desire to help others, I went on to study nursing in college. I ultimately followed in my mother’s footsteps and landed my first job in critical care rotating through surgical and medical intensive care units. I was passionate about analyzing patient data and managing complex medical conditions. Over the years my curiosity led me down a variety of professional paths. I was fortunate to have worked on information systems implementation projects as well as pharmaceutical vaccine research after completing my Master’s in Healthcare and Nursing Administration. With the technology boom in the early 2000’s, I worked for a start-up creating simulation training platforms for medical devices and today I am a clinical editor for NursingCenter.com. My career has taken many twists and turns but at the core remains the legacy of my mother and the tradition of the Filipino nurses that came before me.
Brice, A. (2019). Why are there so many Filipino nurses in the U.S.? Retrieved from https://news.berkeley.edu/2019/05/28/filipino-nurses-in-the-us-podcast/
Jurado, L.M. & Saria, M.G. (2018). Filipino nurses in the United States. Nursing Management, 49(3): 36-41. doi: 10.1097/01.NUMA.0000530423.71453.58