Nurses in Japan find language a barrier

“It’s like taking a nursing course all over again, but this time, in Japanese.”

That is what Filipino nurses here told Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz when they met on Sunday and asked the labor chief for help in hurdling the national nursing board exams of Japan.

Baldoz said she met with six nurses and five caregivers who came here under the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (Jpepa), and they asked for help because the board exams were in Japanese and “were really very difficult.”

“They asked for assistance in their review and suggested that we negotiate (with the Japanese) to find ways to make the exams easier. They said the exams were really very difficult,” Baldoz said in an interview.

“They said it was like studying again, but this time using the Japanese language,” she added.

Baldoz is in Japan to attend the International Labor Organization’s 15th Asia and the Pacific Regional Meeting (APRM), which will discuss jobs protection and economic growth amid the global financial crisis.

Baldoz said the government would raise the issue when Japan and the Philippines review the Jpepa next month.

“That’s one area we will take up in January when we have the negotiations in Manila. We will be looking into areas for improvement and that is one of the things we will check,” Baldoz said.

“The Philippine embassy here will also send some communication and I will have all of this reviewed,” she added.

Baldoz said there was already an initiative to translate the most recent Japanese board exams into English so that this could serve as a reviewer for the Filipino nurses.

“They really need this because they find the exams difficult since it’s in Japanese. They can’t understand it. You have to study Japanese for a long time to be adept at using it,” she said.

Sent back to Philippines

Under Jpepa, 1,000 Filipino nurses and caregivers are supposed to be sent to Japan to help care for its aging population. The nurses are given three years to study for their exams while working as “nursing trainees.” Those who fail are sent back to the Philippines.

As of May 2011—or nearly five years after the Jpepa was signed and nearly three years after it was ratified by the Philippine Senate—only two Filipino nurses have passed the licensure exam for nursing while 229 caregivers have been allowed to work here.

“When it comes to (the) salaries (of the nursing trainees), there is no problem. They say they still get a net of P40,000. It depends on the institutions but some of them also get free lodging and food,” Baldoz said.

She said the nurses and caregivers she met were mostly from Cotabato, Zamboanga and Bohol. The rest were from Luzon.