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Letter to the Editor | Being a Filipina nurse

I am a Filipino nurse. I’m sure you’re wondering why I have a foreign-sounding surname. Those who don’t know me usually mistake me as being married to a foreigner but I’m actually half-German and half-Filipino, and I was born and raised in Davao City. Despite having two employment opportunities during my “working vacation” in Germany four years ago, I chose to come back to the Philippines to work as a contractual nurse in the Southern Philippines Medical Center – one of the biggest government hospitals in the country.

Now, while on a break from hospital work since January, I write for my fellow-nurses.

Last year (February 26 to be exact) nurses all over the country called for a pay hike – a petition that was not approved because it had no legal basis and that it violated the “hierarchy of courts”. I, like so many of my fellow-nurses, were disappointed and saddened by the turn of events. Despite a more favorable Supreme Court ruling this year, the same petition was junked.

To be a nurse in the Philippines takes a lot of hard work, with four to five years in a college or university offering nursing and six months to one year to prepare for our licensure examinations. In this regard, we are considered degree holders and skilled professionals like doctors, accountants, engineers and teachers. Also, like soldiers and policemen, we serve and protect our countrymen. In terms of healthcare, that is. Way before COVID-19, nurses were always known as the frontliners of healthcare, being the first to cater to patients before doctors step in. If you don’t believe me, try looking for an Emergency Room without nurses.

We nurses not only use our hands at work but we use our brains as well. We don’t work “under”doctors as we are equipped with the knowledge and the skills to act independently and competently within the scope of our practice. To clarify again, we work WITH doctors, not for them. We are trained to review and clarify doctors’ orders before carrying them out especially for medications and certain procedures like administering blood transfusions. Using sound clinical judgement, we help avoid doing grave harm to patients, like, for example, not giving an ordered antihypertensive drug to a patient with an already abnormally low blood pressure. In times when a patient’s other vital signs are below or above normal, or when there’s a decline in his level of consciousness, we make lifesaving referrals.

Basically, we work the way we do all for the safety and well-being of our patients – the people we truly work for.

According to renowned motivational speaker and author Donna Wilk Cardillo (whose clinical expertise includes Emergency Room and Psychiatric nursing) , we are the “heart of healthcare”. We choose to view a patient as a whole and not just as a disease. We use proper assessment and therapeutic communications skills to identify and determine their problems. We then use the next steps of the nursing process (Diagnosis, Planning, Implementation and Evaluation) to give the proper care. Everything we do in hospitals or in our respective communities is for the benefit of our patients, as well as for their loved ones.

Sadly, the current healthcare system just doesn’t seem to work for us. TO BE CONTINUED

Johanna Zehender, is a graduate of the San Pedro College of Davao. a Registered Nurse who writes to uplift nurses and fellow-healthcare workers everywhere. Despite leaving hospital work temporarily, she remains a nurse at heart. When not writing, she enjoys making brush lettering pieces mostly with Karin Markers. You can see her work on Instagram under the handle @liveandletliph which means “Live and let love inspire positive happenings!”

johanna zehender <jzehender@yahoo.com

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