Foreign trio clear nursing exam hurdle

Two nurses from Indonesia and one from the Philippines cleared Japanese-language requirements and passed the national nursing exam in February, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said Friday.

The three, who are among 257 people in Japan under free-trade agreements with Indonesia and the Philippines, will be allowed to stay in Japan indefinitely.

The three were the first applicants to pass Japan’s nursing qualification exam among hundreds of foreign nurses in the country under FTAs.

The two Indonesians, who have been in Japan since 2008, are working at a hospital in Sanjo, Niigata Prefecture.

The Filipino nurse has been working at a hospital in Ashikaga, Tochigi Prefecture, since arriving in Japan last year.

Japan, a rapidly aging society, began accepting foreign nurses and caregivers in 2008 due to domestic labor shortages in medical and nursing service fields.

Foreign nurses are required to return to their home countries if they fail to pass the nurses exam within three years. Caregivers also need to clear Japan’s qualifying exam within four years.

None of the foreign nurses passed last year’s national exams held in February 2009 because, it is thought, kanji and technical terms used in the exam pose a major challenge for foreign nurses.

In talks with Indonesian and Philippine government officials in January, Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada promised to consider addressing the language barriers for foreign nurses.

The health ministry is currently studying using simpler terms in the exam and helping foreign nurses study the Japanese language, ministry officials said.

In the 2008 and 2009 fiscal years through this month, Japan accepted 570 health care workers from Indonesia — 277 nurses and 293 caregivers.