Manila Should Not Have Gone Through All the Trouble to Get NCLEX Site

When the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) announced last week that Manila was finally selected as a new international NCLEX test site, one could just imagine the euphoria of those who worked so hard to pull this through.

That it came in the aftermath of the June 2006 nurse exam leakage would seem a better reason to celebrate. The NCSBN had always put in question the Philippines’s ability to protect the integrity of national tests. As our luck would have it, the RN test leakage happened.

Those who worked to convince the NCSBN that the Philippines is worthy of an NCLEX test site deserve all the credit. They had been up against an establishment that seemed to put one barrier after another in setting up a Manila test site.

PNAA President May Mayor, President-elect Leo Jurado and Task Force NCLEX Chair Filipinas Lowery, along with Philippine government officials led by CFO Chairman Dante Ang, no less, trooped to Chicago to make their case before the NCSBN. It was a burden of proof they didn’t have to take.

If integrity was really the issue, other international test sites where large scale cheating also occurred should not have been

chosen by the NCSBN before the Philippines.

The Philippine government, PNAA and PNA should not have gone through all the trouble of campaigning for an NCLEX test site in the Philippines because it made absolutely no sense not to make Manila a test site.

It is an undisputed fact that close to half of first-time NCLEX takers are from the Philippines. According to more recent estimates 9,000 Filipino nurses take the NCLEX yearly. In the meantime, the number of NCLEX takers from Canada, Mexico, India, South Korea and China trail far behind ours.

So why did it take so long for the NCSBN to come to its senses? Why did it set up 17 other test sites everywhere else since it began international testing in January 2005?

Why did London, U.K.; Seoul, South Korea; Hong Kong; Sydney, Australia; Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver in Canada; Frankfurt; Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai in India; Mexico City; Taipei, Taiwan; Chiyoda-ku and Yokohama in Japan all have their NCLEX test sites before the Philippines if close to a majority of the takers were Filipino RNs?

Why wasn’t Manila selected as the first test site?

The deliberate delay in setting up an NCLEX test site in Manila would be best understood if the public were aware of the certification process for foreign RNs who enter the US.

First of all, the RN certification process is unnecessarily costly, time-consuming and worse, duplicative.

Foreign nurses have to undergo CGFNS certification in order to start the immigration process to the US. When their visa petitions are approved and they are eventually deployed to the US, foreign RNs still have to take the NCLEX and secure their state RN licenses to be able to practice their profession.

On the other hand, foreign RNs who can afford to come to the US can take the NCLEX and skip the CGFNS certification altogether. This is because the NCLEX fulfills both the requirement for immigration and for the practice of the profession.

Guess who would stand to lose if Filipino RNs took the NCLEX, instead of the CGFNS exam? Filipino RNs know only too well how costly it is to obtain a CGFNS certification.

These circumstances inevitably beg another question– was NCSBN putting off the Manila test site as an accommodation to CGFNS?

It is ironic that even if the understaffing of medical facilities in the US has reached critical levels, the US nursing establishment has laid out a veritable obstacle course for foreign RNs, with the CGFNS offering the most hurdles.

Now that Filipino RNs would be able to take their NCLEX in Manila, CGFNS certification will most likely be rendered obsolete. But all is not lost for CGFNS.

As immigration laws would have it, foreign health professionals are required to obtain a Visa Screen Certificate, which is intended to prove that the health worker has the requisite knowledge, skill and English proficiency to work in the US.

The Visa Screen is issued by the CGFNS. It is a separate legal requirement under the Immigration and Nationality Act, even as it is essentially the same certification as the CGFNS and the NCLEX.

Weeks before the NCSBN Chicago meeting, the CGFNS floated the proposal to issue a blanket Visa Screen denial for all Filipino RNs who took the June 2006 nurse licensing exam. The timing was uncanny with doubts about competence¬Ě being raised by both the NCSBN and the CGFNS.

Are we about to see another hurdle for foreign RNs? We certainly hope not. If the NCSBN is quite satisfied with the handling of the RN test leakage that it agreed to the Manila test site, then there is no reason for the CGFNS to take a tougher stand against Filipino RNs.

Filipino RNs are in demand worldwide, not just in the US. That wouldn’t be the case if their competence as health professionals are in question, as the CGFNS seems to suggest.