A quarter of all the world’s overseas nurses come from the Philippines, making it the largest supplier of nurses in the world. Not only that but in the U.S. almost one third of all foreign nurses are Filipino.
It all started when the Philippines became a U.S. colony in 1898. Once there, the U.S. created a policy called benevolent assimilation. It was used to justify the colonization of the Philippines by bringing better education, public health, and infrastructure. The U.S. built ten nursing schools in less than a decade. These facilities introduced Filipino nurses to American practices in medicine and gave them the opportunity to learn English. As intended, this system prepared Filipino nurses to work in American hospitals and it would continue until the Philippines gained independence in 1946. When the United States entered WWII, hospitals needed more nurses to treat the wounded. The American government gave incentives for numerous American women to join the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps. However, after the war ended in 1945 there was not an excess need for nurses. Decreased pay and worsened working conditions prompted many American nurses to leave the profession entirely. Vacancies in hospitals’ staff started to pile up again because of the lack of nurses. Instead of raising pay and improving infrastructure to prompt American women into nursing positions, the American government looked beyond their homeland and set up the Exchange Visitor Program (EVP). Hospitals in the U.S. took advantage of these programs and recruited Filipino nurses through the EVP. The nursing schools the U.S. had built during the early 1900s provided well-trained nurses who were exposed to English. Filipino nurses engulfed the program and within the next decade, over 10,000 Filipino nurses came to work in the U.S.
Now it’s time to fast forward. The 1960s brought plenty of change to America and countless reform movements like civil rights and women’s rights started to change America. New, previously prohibited, job opportunities opened up for women across the U.S. This led to many women leaving the nursing industry, which led to the 3rd shortage of nurses. The U.S. government once again looked to the Philippines for answers. With the passing of new legislation, Filipino immigrants could now apply for U.S. visas to become U.S. citizens. Hospitals targeted ads for Filipino nurses and it worked, the temporary migration route had now become a permanent one that is still active to this day. For migrants, the prospects in the U.S. were often favorable compared to their homeland situation.
Back home in the Philippines in the 1970s, the Filipino people were crushed under the iron fist of dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Marcos and his regime took an economy that was starting to balance and unstabilized it and the Philippines went into a recession. Unemployment jumped alarmingly. Instead of addressing the issues, the regime actively promoted labor export for Filipino people working in other countries. Filipino workers were starting to send hundreds of millions of dollars back to their families and the Government wanted to keep this revenue stream going. This result makes the Philippines the largest export of nurses in the world and nearly 20,000 nurses leave the Philippines every year. All the Filipino nurses working around the clock should be appreciated and recognized for their hard work.