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For more than a decade, the Republic Act 7164 also known as the “Philippine Nursing Act of 1991” regulated the practice of nursing in the Philippines. Within that time frame, the country and the nursing profession have undergone significant development, social change, and technological advancements. These made it clear that there is a need to review and amend the law to reflect policies that will address the changing needs of the profession as well as those of the profession serves. On the 21st of October 2002 then president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed into law the Republic Act 9713 also known as the “Philippine Nursing Act of 2002”, repealing the Philippine Nursing Act of 1991 (RA 7164) and all other laws, decrees, orders, circulars, issuances, rules and regulations and parts thereof which are inconsistent with the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002. The main difference between the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002 to its predecessor is that its contents “guarantees the delivery of basic health services” to the public and require a “more responsive nursing profession” by ensuring relevant nursing education and humane working conditions for nurses.
The Philippine Nursing Act of 2002 (RA 9713) focuses more on how to improve the nursing profession and ensure the global competitiveness of Filipino Nurses. The law clearly stipulates that members of the Board of Nursing must have a Master’s Degree in Nursing, Education, or other Allied Medical Profession, which I believe, helps the Board to understand and discover more ways for nurses to harmoniously and effectively work with the other members of the health care team. The requirement that the last 5 years of the 10-year continuous practice must be in the Philippines ensures that the decisions the Board will make pertaining to nurses and the nursing profession is based on the actual problems and issues that nurses experience in the domestic setting. This will pave the way for nursing policies addressing grassroots issues of the profession.
In Article VI of the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002 which stipulates the scope of nursing practice, the phrase “and when recovery is not possible, towards a peaceful death” was added. This phrase is not included in the Philippine Nursing Act of 1991. This highlights one of the most important collaborative roles of nurses, ensuring a peaceful death when restoration of health is no longer possible. This is also enshrined in the preamble of the Code of Ethics for Registered Nurses and its inclusion in RA 9713 provided the way for the creation of concrete guidelines and regulations for nurses to carry out their roles. The most noteworthy change in the Philippine Nursing Act is the requirement that the Board must represent the three areas of nursing, namely: Nursing Education, Nursing Service, and Community Health Nursing. This ensured that Nursing Schools abide at least by the minimum standards that must be followed to ensure that students have relevant education and enough theoretical knowledge to transition effectively and efficiently to a clinical setting. It also required professional nurses to engage in activities that will further enhance their professional knowledge and skills. A great emphasis was also put on the roles of nurses in community health settings.
In analyzing the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002, it is important not to dwell only on the positive changes it brought. To further develop the nursing profession, we must also take a look at the issues that arise from it and identify room for improvement. Main points during the congress and senate debate for what would be the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002 paint a common force that guided the final details of the law– improving the nursing profession to keep Filipino nurses globally competitive and to contribute to the country’s growth.
It’s quite hard not to correlate the government’s aim to “provide better career prospects” to opportunities to work abroad. Based on publicly available records of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), 13,536 newly-hired Filipino nurses were deployed overseas in 2001, though a decline from the succeeding years until 2005 was observed, the Philippines has a record of sending not less than 7,000 nurses yearly and this increased to not lower than 9,000 nurses yearly from 2006-2010. The rise in numbers of Filipino nurses who got to work in developed countries and enjoy far greater remuneration compared to the ones received by nurses in the Philippines has increased the number of enrollments in Nursing Schools across the country. This presented another problem, which was finding a faculty to teach new nursing students. It has become extremely difficult for nursing schools to find seasoned and highly experienced faculty as the majority of them have opted to work overseas.
Perhaps the biggest failure in the implementation of the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002 that affected a great number of professional nurses was the implementation of the minimum base pay for nurses working in public health institutions who, according to the law, should receive a salary not lower than salary grade 15. It would have given P 32,053 to P34,801 as a basic salary for nurses working in state-run health institutions. However, it took almost two decades before Budget Circular No. A 2020-4 was issued, which finally implemented Section 32 of Republic Act 9173 or the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002.