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MANILA, Philippines—A total of 95,282 nursing graduates will take the nurse licensure examinations scheduled on November 29 to 30, an “all-time high” in the history of the exams, said Marco Antonio Sto. Tomas, a member of the Professional Regulation Commission’s Board of Nursing.

Another 51 with “conditioned” status are also scheduled to take the exams for failing in some of the five subjects in past exams, said Sto. Tomas, also the concurrent information officer of the board.

The biggest number of examinees will come from Metro Manila (40,621 first-timers, 33 conditioned); Baguio (14,102 first-timers, 7 conditioned); Cebu (8,899 first-timers, 5 conditioned); Cagayan De Oro (3,045 first-timers, 2 conditioned); Davao (8,143 first-timers, 2 conditioned); Iloilo (6,020); Legaspi (3,070 first-timers, 1 conditioned); Lucena (3,444); Tacloban (1,145); Tuguegarao (2,322 first-timers, 1 conditioned); Zamboanga (1,609); Jolo (166); Pagadian (1,568); Angeles (179); and Butuan (898).

The number of nursing graduates taking the board exam has steadily increased over the years. Citing board figures from June 2003, Sto. Tomas said the number of examinees this November surpasses the 88,649 who took the exam November 2008.

A total of 7,993 examinees took the exam in June 2003; 7,632 in December 2003; almost doubled to 13,225 in June 2004; dipped slightly to 12,100 in December 2004; more than doubled to 26,000 in June 2005; dipped again to 24,287 in December 2005.

At the controversial June 2006 exam, which was marred with findings of leaked questions, the number of examinees again almost doubled to 42,006.

A total of 40,147 took the exam in December 2006; almost doubling to 78,583 in June 2007; dipped to 67,728 in December 2007; further dipped to 64,459 in November 2008; increased again in June 2009 before reaching this November’s record number of examinees.

Sto. Tomas noted that since 2003, the passing rate in these exams has hovered between 40 percent and 50 percent. He said this should force nursing schools to better their standards as the exams test only the “minimum competencies” of entry-level nurses.

“There is much to be desired at the ‘production lines if we were to consider our national ‘health human resource’ strategies and these concerns goes back to the Colleges of Nursing under the direction supervision of the Commission on Higher Education,” he said.

Sto. Tomas also pointed that despite the low passing rate, jobs inside and outside the country remain scarce for new graduates, as most employers require one to two years of actual work experience.

Employers do not need “the useless ‘volunteer’ work where our nursing graduates are even being ask to pay and yet being utilized as human resource complements in hospitals and other health facilities,” he said.

Sto Tomas thus urged the nursing sector to take active steps and put in place the necessary “health, human resource, and career development infrastructures” to better the standing of all nurses, including new nursing board passers.

“It’s time that we see the nursing sector itself enable and help make Filipino nurses’ dreams come true—buy a home, take a great vacation with their loved ones after three years of hard work, put their children through school and have them finish college, and retire in the comforts of their homes with their loved ones, sharing the thought that nurses have not only earned for themselves but cared and served a lot of their fellow Filipinos through nursing and health, and have become true blessings not only to Filipinos but the rest of the world,” he said.

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