It has been performing this role for more than three decades as an immigration-neutral and non-profit organization. To-date, it has evaluated more than 450,000 internationally educated nurses and other healthcare workers for jobs (Pinoy Abroad).
February 16,19 and 24 -- President Arroyo ordered the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment to formally appeal the decision made by the CGFNS (GMA News Research, 2006). A task force was created for the purpose and was headed by PRC chairperson Dr. Leonor Rosero. In a telephone conversation on February 24, CGFNS head, Dr. Barbara Nichols, confirmed with Dr. Rosero that the panel's decision was final as well as unanimous. Dr. Nichols also said that the CGFNS did not have a provision for appeal or reconsideration. She explained that the Commission is a private organization but it follows the U.S. immigration law. Its decision to require a retake of the affected tests was based on that law. Despite this, Dr. Rosero insisted on making a personal appeal for reconsideration on March 3 at the CGFNS offices in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Filipino Nurses 2 U.S., 2007).
In the meantime, the Department of Labor and Employment set up rules for the retake, which would be on a voluntary basis and offered only once (Filipino Nurses 2 U.S., 2007; Sun Star, 2007). Secretary Arturo Brion assured that the exam would be conducted in a way that would avoid questions of validity of the licenses issued to passers of the June 2006 exam. At the same time, it was intended to enhance the employability of Filipino nurses (Filipino Nurses 2 U.S.). At least 4,000 nursing graduates who participated in the controversial exam registered for the second Special Nursing Review classes offered by the Department of Labor and Employment (Sun Star, 2007). They were to retake the disputed Tests III and V. About 10,000 f the 17,000 affected passers from all over the country registered for the retake (Aning, 2007; Sun Star).
March 5 - CGFNS officers explained to the Philippine panel team that their decision to deny VisaScreen Certificates to the involved passers was not subject to re-negotiation or review (Filipino Nurses 2 U.S., 2007). They emphasized that they had been fair and transparent in presenting facts on the issue from the start. Their fact-finding team determined that the Philippine nursing licensure exam held in June 2006 did not come up to the standards of the U.S. nursing licensure. They also expressed awareness and concern with media exaggerations, misinformation and confusion as a result. But they stood firm on their decision (Filipino Nurses 2 U.S.).
March 31 -- The Philippine government allocated P20 million - approximately $420,000,00 - for a one-week review by the voluntary examinees Aning, 2007; Sun Star, 2007). They did not have to pay an exam fee. The exam was conducted with the regular exams in June and December during the year. Of the 17,000 nursing graduates who took the June 2006 exam, more than 1,687 were ordered to retake. Only about 1,2000 took the exam again and around 1,000 passed (Aning, Sun Star).
June 1 -- The Philippine Ombudsman, Merceditas Gutierrez, filed criminal charges against two members of the Board of Nursing involved in the leakage scandal (GMA News Research, 2006). In addition to the two, 17 other officers in the test review centers would be brought to court to answer the charges, according to the chief of the anti-fraud and computer crimes division of the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation. Reports said that there were 420 nursing review centers in the Philippines, many of which are listed as "undesirable" by the PRC (GMA News Research).
Stiffer Penalties for Violators, but Damage Done
Philippine education authorities proposed stiffer penalties and preventive measures against a repeat of the leakage in the future (Sun Star, 2006). These measures would avoid doubts on the integrity of all licensure examinations and procedures and insure the excellence of Filipino professionals, according to President Arroyo (Sun Star).
But the damage cannot be undone. Before the scandal, the Philippines was lobbying with the U.S.-based National Council Licensure Examination or NCLEX to include Manila as an exam site (Marcelo, 2002). It would have been a big boon and savings if Filipino nurses could take the exam without needing to travel to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. Deputy Executive Director of the Commission for Overseas Filipinos also announced that the first testing center was to be established within six months at that time. But when the leakage became global news, Manila was stricken out of consideration (Marcelo).
The Philippines has been the largest supplier of foreign-registered nurses in U.S.
hospitals and other healthcare settings (Filipino Nurses 2 U.S., 2007). Almost 26,000
nurses received immigrant visas and work permits to work in the U.S. between 1988 and May 2006. The country sent nurses also to Canada and Saudi Arabia. The demand would increase with the lifting of the limit on the number of nurses a hospital can hire. But as a consequence of the leakage, the Philippine image was tarnished. American recruiters began turning down the applications of passers involved the controversial licensure exam. The prejudice extends to others in the Philippines who find it difficult to land nursing jobs. Their competence and integrity have been questioned. Nurses from India have been selected to fill in the need in the U.S. And other countries who share the same sentiment. The Philippines' place has been threatened (Filipino Nurses 2 U.S.).
Approval as New NCLEX Site
On February 8, 2007, the Board of Directors of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing approved the Philippines as a new international site for its examinations (Filipino Nurses 2 U.S., 2007). It was the realization of a long dream by the country. Problems in security and instability did not hinder the approval as against the country's record as the largest supplier of nurses to the U.S. This was viewed as a sign of a deep commitment. On July 13 that same year, the International Pearson Professional Center in Manila announced the first NCLEX exams to be conducted on August 23 (Filipino Nurses 2 U.S.).
But after the approval came the denial of VisaScreen Certificates to passers of the controversial June 2006 exam (Filipino Nurses 2 U.S., 2007). This showed that the recognition of the Philippines' deep commitment was not at the expense of the health, safety and welfare of patients in the U.S. The PRC claimed to have tackled the problem. Instead, the incident led to the resignation of the former president of the Philippine Nurses Association and the dismissal of the two accused members of the Board examiners. The National Bureau of Investigation reported the violation to the Court of Appeals, which in turn, ordered the retake of Tests III and V by only 1,200 of the examinees. With this development and the subsequent success of the December 2006 exam, many were tempted to believed that the smear caused by the leakage scandal was erased and forgotten (Filipino Nurses 2 U.S.).
Upgrade of Test Standards and a Warning
Before the selection of Manila as a NCLEX site, the National Council had earlier announced that the upgrading of standards in passing the NCLEX exam (Filipino Nurses 2 U.S., 2007). After sending this good news to the Philippines, the CGFNS announced the denial of VisaScreen Certificates to passers of the disputed June 2006 exam. The two events were not coincidental but should be viewed by all concerned as a clear warning. They warned that anomalies would not be tolerated in the U.S. And that strict criteria would be imposed for nurses to qualify for work in the country. The CGFNS firm decision to require a retake was pursuant to strict and upgraded standards set by the National Council (Filipino Nurses 2 U.S.).
A second look at the event and its aftermath reveals bias towards reported widespread corrupt practices in the Philippines, such as election cheating and rigging of government contracts (Rodis, 2007). The attempted exam cheating was not large enough to warrant the overall sanction, which strongly hints at a prevailing bias. Nursing professor Rene Tadle of the University of Santo Tomas could have been aware of this when he said that indicting those responsible of the leakage was not sufficient (Canlas, 2007). He was among those who reported the violation to the National Bureau of Investigation. He believed that all sectors must be united not only in contributing to the speedy and just resolution of the criminal cases. There must be concerted and coherent efforts to show the world that the Philippines is not a nation of cheats (Canlas). #
Aning, J. (2007). 10,000 nursing passers to retake tainted June 2006 exams. Philippines Daily Inquirer: Inquirer.net. Retrieved on June 29, 2009 from http://globalnation.inquirer.net/news/breakingnews/view/20070410-59547/The_nursing_scandal
Canlas, J. (2007). DOJ indicts four in nursing exam. Manila Times: Yehey Corporation.
Retrieved on June 29, 2009 from http://www.yehey.com/news/article.aspx?id=177341
Filipino Nurses 2 U.S. (2007). Final announcement from the…