The nursing boom was at its peak when Raymond decided to take up nursing in 2002. With so many hoping to change their fortunes by becoming a nurse, nurse staff positions in hospitals had become scarce.
What was available were nurse volunteer positions. However, the practice among hospitals was to ask nurses to pay to get in as volunteers. It was a double whammy for those hoping to start their careers. Spend to get experience but not receive pay for their work.
Further compounding their woes was the additional training required for applicants. Raymond cited Basic Life Support and IV Therapy Training as among the requirements before they could be accepted in a hospital.
It simply meant more expenses for the neophyte nurse before even landing a real job, only to realise later how little nursing actually pays. Today, there are nurses who still claim to be receiving only PHP6,000 to PHP8,000 from certain medical facilities.
Raymond was among the more fortunate, whose well-to-do family could afford to send him to nursing school, and support him until he was finally able to find a job. Many of his peers did not have such luxury and ended up working as call centre agents just to survive.
Aside from low wages, another challenge nurses had to contend with were people who had very little appreciation about the plight of nurses but were profuse with negative comments about the profession.
Search for bigger opportunitiesAfter 30 months of waiting, Nurse Raymond was accepted at The Medical City, one of the progressive and renowned medical facilities in the metropolis.
His stay with the hospital was fulfilling but the young nurse wanted to spread his wings further. He passed the NCLEX, but knew it was not an assurance he could find work in the United States, which at that time was in recession.
Nurse Raymond initially considered opportunities in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar but did not pursue them after learning the work may not be permanent nor was there a guarantee his contract would be extended.
A supposed opening in the United Kingdom gave him a taste of being duped by nefarious recruitment agencies.
“It’s true, fake agencies are everywhere. I was one of the victims.”
But it’s hard to blame Filipinos who are lured by fraudulent companies. The salaries for local positions were simply not enough to survive, he argued.
The German challengeWhile mulling how to pursue working in the US, he saw an ad for nursing positions in Germany. Applicants did not have to take a qualifying exam, but had to pass the A2 level of the German language course.
He still had doubts about the recruitment agency offering the job, but nevertheless proceeded to take up intensive German language lessons. It eventually required him to quit his hospital job to concentrate on the training. Although a painful decision, he was determined to get to Germany.
Shortly after, the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) announced the Triple Win Project that offered placement for Filipino nurses in Germany.
The German government had tapped the Philippines as among the countries to supply them with nursing professionals. And since it was a government-to-government agreement, no placement fees were required.
Application was smooth but laborious, Raymond described. “The waiting time was really something to consider. We were the pioneer group, and the policies were still new.”
They eventually earned their German language proficiency certificate (B1 level), a critical supporting document in applying for their Schengen visa. Papers were processed, plane tickets were handed out, and their departure for Germany set.
When their plane touched down in the Eastern European country in July 2014, Raymond said he was hit by a wave of emotions. “We already reached our goal.”
The next step was adjusting to a new country and its culture, their workplace and people who were far different from what they were used to.
Nurse Raymond admitted feeling trepidation over what awaited them but was ready for the challenge. MIMS
Next: Embracing a new culture, enjoying the rewards
Employment opportunities for nurses in Germany
Working in the UK: Advice from Asian nurse