Pride is evident when Dave Erwin Festin speaks. Since 2016, the registered nurse from Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro has also earned his license as a medical technologist, after completing his second degree under the scholarship programme of the Department of Health-MIMAROPA office.

Other than full tuition, semestral book allowance, and annual uniform allowance, scholars receive a monthly stipend of Php18,000. This takes care of food, lodging and transportation expenses. Review classes prior to licensure exams, and fees for the test, are also covered under the scholarship package.

In return, scholars must serve two years in public health facilities in their provinces for every year of scholarship they availed of. It’s paid work minus the benefits. Ultimately, the goal is not only to address the shortage of medical technologists in the region, but get local government units to absorb the scholars and give them tenured positions with benefits.

Dave holds the distinction of being the first graduate of the scholarship programme to have passed the board exams. He was immediately deployed after getting his license, and just a year after, he is poised for a plantilla position in the municipality as medical technologist.

Had fate not intervened, Dave would have been off to Oman, working as nurse under a direct-hire arrangement with the OB-Gyne Institute of Oman. He was probably not destined to leave. Part of his timetable was to go overseas if he still did not have a permanent position after completing his return service.

Pressures of going back to school

Jonald Regio hopes to follow in Dave’s footsteps. The registered nurse is on his final year at MedTech school, and hopes to earn his license shortly after graduation.

While he initially had doubts about the scholarship programme (it sounded too good to be true), Jonald eventually found the perks appealing when he was accepted. “It’s like being paid to study,” he said.

Not that it was easy, even for one with extensive nursing experience (he’s done the rounds of nursing jobs in his native Marinduque - at a private hospital, in rural health facilities, and a school).

Maintaining excellent grades, attending classes regularly, and guiding classmates who look up to them because they were already professionals were pressures they had to deal with. Besides, they were expected to always perform well precisely because of their nursing school background and work experience.

For Dave, it was also having to adjust to classroom life, after years of working, that was an added challenge.

It was a definite advantage already having work experience when they go into internship. The chaos and hurried pace inside medical facilities no longer came as a shock for these nurses.

While Jonald, like most Filipino healthcare professionals, is considering working overseas, for now he is grateful that the scholarship will allow him to stay in his province, work after graduation while caring for his parents with health issues.

Beyond gaining additional skills with a second degree, Jonald believes becoming a medtech will open more opportunities for him that could increase his earning capacity.

Dave Erwin Festin is proud to affix RN and RMT to his name and serve his community.
Dave Erwin Festin is proud to affix RN and RMT to his name and serve his community.

Possibilities and opportunities

Joel Macatol, like Dave and Jonald, is a registered nurse with five years experience as community nurse. His first job, however, after nursing school was as assistant pharmacist. And this opened his eyes to possibilities.

Thus when a scholarship was also offered for Pharmacy, Joel applied for a slot. He admits to being more challenged in his new course because of the voluminous information they need to memorize and understand. Still, he is confident of being able to pass with flying colours.

After earning his license and completing the return service agreement, Joel’s options, even if he chooses to stay in Oriental Mindoro, are many. As pharmacist, he does not need to confine himself to the hospital setting or working at a pharmacy. There is the area of research and if he can afford it, open his own pharmacy.

Dave’s heart has always been in public health and he is only too happy to have the chance to live his dream. Earning a master’s degree in public administration, major in public health, is his next goal. But unlike nursing and MedTech school where he was a scholar, this time he will have to pay for his own way.

Dave excels both as nurse and medical technologist. Photo courtesy of Dave Festin
Dave excels both as nurse and medical technologist. Photo courtesy of Dave Festin

3-pronged approach

The scholarship programme is a brainchild of Regional Director Eduardo Janairo. He wanted a fast-track activity that would fill slots for medical technologists, sorely lacking in the region comprised of Oriental and Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan. By tapping registered nurses or midwives who already have general education credits, they can abbreviate schooling and complete a second degree in 2 to 3 years.

It is a creative solution that he hopes will not just solve a recurrent local problem but also be a means to prevent healthcare professionals from seeking jobs overseas and provide natives of the region with an option to be gainfully employed serving the people while staying home.

The idea of a scholarship for a second degree has since been adopted by the Department of Health central office and graduates of nursing and other allied health courses can take advantage of the opportunity. MIMS

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