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  WITNESS

Notes from a Curious Bystander (Part I – Philippine Nurses Association of Illinois)



by Arnold De Villa
September 16, 2012
Until I get tired or when I ran out of themes to pry on, I will try to be faithful to my column’s byline. I will ask questions, talk to people, snoop on websites, or read files on anything that contains any word about Filipinos, Philippines, Filipinas or the like in the State of Illinois. As a witness, I will try to transmit what I see or what I hear according to what is available. Since the subjective aspect of my perspective can only be objectified when a reliable response from a credible source comes in, I would invite any involved people to write back, react, respond or scream until the truthful facts are disclosed. I will only divulge that which is already public to serve the public with things to know which I think deserves disclosure.
To begin with, it is common knowledge that Nursing is almost synonymous to a Filipino dominated career not only in Illinois but throughout America and perhaps around the word. I am aware that there are various organizations of collective Filipino Nurses according to school affiliations, but I would like to feature the one whose name seems to claim and embrace Filipinos as a whole. If you are not a member of the “Philippine Nurses Association of Illinois”, please raise your hand…and if you a member, please raise your arms as well”. I asked this question from a handful of Filipino Nurses that I know and most of them know nothing about what I asked. So I went to this Organization’s website to check them out.
Not bad. They have been in circulation since 1957 during the days when Filipino nurses in Chicago were “characterized by their impertinence” (http://www.pnaillinois.org). According to their website, membership was mainly composed of transient Exchange-Visa Nurses, presumably in an era when immigration policies were tight as they are today for Filipino Nurses as compared to some years back when Nursing Visas were as available as a movie ticket. At that time, they were known as “Filipino Nurses Association of Chicago”. It seems that somewhere between 1960 and 1965, the association faded into inactivity until a new group (Filipino Nightingales of Chicago) renamed their organization as “Filipino Nurses Association of Chicago (FNAC)”. It seems that either a merger took place or the name of a dead organization was resurrected. Nonetheless, this name was allegedly used to indicate an official affiliation with the Philippine Nurses Association in Manila. In 1966, the word ‘Filipino’ became ‘Philippine” and in 1983, ‘Chicago’ was replaced by ‘Illinois’. Hence, after more than fifty years, the official name is now “Philippine Nurses Association of Illinois”.
This current organizational name was perhaps adopted either to claim a statewide status or to project a statewide goal. That is for them to verify. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that this organization has performed and delivered deeds pertinent to its claim and in fulfillment of its goals. More than fifty years of existence was not without action. They were not merely entrenched in social affairs or in touting brain and beauty as is typical of so many Filipino organizations. Rather, according to their public resume, it seems that they are politically and socially active, engaged and interactive.
So then I ask the same question, if you are a nurse with Filipino origins, are you a member of the PNAI? If so, then very good, but if not, then why not? This question is more rhetorical than actual, but feel free to discuss it among you.
As is typical among so many foreign nurses and mostly Filipinos, “I don’t have time…I work double shifts… go from one facility to another….I barely sleep…barely pay my mortgage….barely send something back home….”
Really? Now let me ask the current members? Are you all retired? Do you have any recent graduate in your membership roster? Do you have any recent nurse immigrant in your list? Are you still engulfed with the typical Filipino conflict of having two presidents (this one I prefer not to talk about)? Do you offer courses that could serve as continuing education credits? What was the last Filipino Public service that you hosted? How many members do you really have?
So there, I peeped and poked on what I saw but do not completely know. As such, if ever I said something inaccurate, I beg for correction. And if ever I wrote anything that is offending, I do apologize and also beg for correction. My intent is not to offend, but to know so that others could know and in so doing, the right knowledge could help things get better. I believe that Filipino Nurses need a unified and cohesive organization that could address specific issues for the improvement of the Filipino nurse. I believe that there is a need for an organization that could function as the authentic voice for a nurse who is so busy working under the shadows of disease. And I hope this could be done even if there were no attendance in any gala ballroom event or any social function. These latter could come as a desert and not necessarily as a main course.
Among those with a four year academic degree in the health profession, an entry level nursing job has still the lowest pay. Yet, nursing normally demands the most intensive and laborious tasks. The flexibility and availability of a nursing job is as widespread as the possibility of termination, lay- offs and early retirement. For nurses back in the Philippines, it seems that the window for job migration in the USA has somewhat paused. In the meantime, hordes of Private Nursing Schools in Illinois are ubiquitously emerging like mushrooms, thereby making the window for foreign nurses even smaller and tighter.
As I end, I am looking for another Filipino organization to pick on for my next column. If you do not have a website and you would want our community to know more about you, send me some lines at arnoldjr2@gmail.com. I do not have much space, but I will see what we can do. And for those who do have websites, watch out. I am prowling around like a scavenger, hunting for something worthy to disseminate, something interesting, something useful.
Of course, this is pro bono. But hey, if you would want to share your wealth with the publishers of this paper, please do so. In fact, if you think that this paper has done well to you as a reader, I believe that an expression of gratitude either through words or through some contribution could truly serve well. In the meantime, thank you so much for reading! Please pass the message around.



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