Statistics released by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas indicate that Filipino overseas workers sent home $31.4 billion in cash remittances in 2021. It’s a vital lifeline to the economy during the year the pandemic hit. It is a decrease in the highly skilled local professionals, and the growing scale of nurses and other health workers continues to increase international labor migration.
Hazel Capispisan, a Filipina from Dasmariñas, Cavite, and a staff nurse in the U.S., has shared her story with us as a migrant worker. She has worked in the United States for 16 years and is now a permanent resident in Mississippi. She said it was very different when she started in Mississippi.
“The way they talk and use slang was not expected.”
Philippine nurses are familiar with global hospitals; many who graduate and pass their examinations eventually go abroad for improved work conditions and financial status. And the ones who stay get sauntered into the Philippine healthcare system and are overworked and underpaid.
Mrs. Capispisan said when asked what made her consider working as an overseas Filipino worker. She also worked at the FEU hospital from 1995-2001 and then taught at the De La Salle University Dasmariñas, Cavite. “I plan to be here in the U.S. as early as 25 years old.” She said.
The Philippines gains favorable results from migration but is also disadvantaged by fewer professionals. And it goes both ways for our health practitioners. They acquire substantial pay for their families, but there are also difficulties. Previous research has shown that foreign-trained nurses have trouble adjusting to a new work environment in a foreign country.
According to Mrs. Capispisan, from her experience, locals in the job are not as accepting at first. “But time will tell how good Filipino nurses are. We work harder than the non-migrant workers.” She added.
“Immigrant nurses also face challenges when forming working relationships with the host nurses in a healthcare organization.” – The International Journal of Nursing Sciences. U.S.
One of the ethical issues migrant nurses suffer from is discrimination. Some migrant nurses get excluded from job opportunities that lead to desired career paths and experience patients who discriminate. And because of nationality, race, double standards, and poorly constructed policies,. On top of this, there are also vulnerabilities and risks for abuse that are gender-specific to women.
The resident nurse explained how Filipinos could be seen as competitors on first arrival. Mrs. Capispisan said that the others would take offense since they are foreigners in the country. But that is before they see how you came to work in the United States. She confirmed that there were instances when her ethnicity and her gender affected how native workers saw her. “Yes, they think that Filipinos are all the same. We don’t talk back or say something when native workers are mean and rude to us.”
“Working here in the U.S. is not all about a better salary. But before, I was like every Filipino nurse. [Then] I learned that I have a voice. I can say what I want. I have my own opinion.” The front liner said when asked about coping when faced with conflicts.
“When I was in the Philippines, I would change or go to a different area every two years because I knew it would be an advantage.” She pointed out the cultural differences between the source country and the recipient country for medical practitioners. She answered that the doctors in the U.S. talk to you as you, a human, while Philippine doctors treat themselves as a “God.”
Looking back, the overseas worker shared how she does not see any differences from when she first came to the country as a migrant worker. Now she is used to how they talk and even learned the slang. And adapted culturally, talking to the doctors and the healthcare team like they are family.
“Being a nurse in a different country is a challenge, but once they see that you are good at what you do. They will recommend you.” She stated. “Americans are so accommodating.” The resident nurse added.
In California, Filipino nurses are battling discrimination to work in American hospitals and are fighting for Personal Protective Equipment or PPE. L.A. Times stated, “Although American and Philippine nursing schools evolved in parallel and adhered to near-identical professional standards, Filipino nurses were systematically underpaid and frequently assigned mundane. American opponents added additional exam requirements for foreign nurses that failed thousands of Filipino nursing graduates.”
There was no specific involvement from the Philippine government based on the front-liner’s experience. Under the law, the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino Act of 1995 ensures the protection and promotion of the welfare of Philippine migrant workers, together with their families and overseas Filipinos in distress. Section 2 declares the protection of labor and access to equality of employment opportunities.
“In the Philippines, a deeply rooted and pervasive culture of migration has made moving abroad common, acceptable—even desirable—as an option or strategy for a better life.” – Maruja M.B. Asis of Migration Policy Institute.
One may encounter discrimination as an overseas worker. Some laws recognize one correct and affirmation for the fundamental equality of women and men. Lawful benefits from the U.S. are not specified. If one is expecting, there are policies to be known once you exit the source country and enter the recipient country. The Commission on Filipino Overseas or CFO has available guides for Filipinos who want to settle abroad with the Handbook for Filipinos Migrating to the United States of America available.
When asked about leadership roles or positions for immigrants, Mrs. Capispisan said she manages the Chest Pain Center in their hospital. “We admit patients with chest pains and do some tests and discharge a patient if all the tests are normal.”
At the end of the interview with Mrs. Capispisan, she admits that being a front liner in a foreign country has been difficult. She leaves the words of hope that the current pandemic will stop and advises for us all to reach out and to educate every patient and family to help ease the crisis today. And with the most practical recommendation for Filipinos planning on taking the OFW route as a nurse, she says,
“Be prepared, and you have to be experienced in nursing specifically if you want to be a nurse.”