Bringing Nursing Back

Abba’s scholarship program for nurses aims to bring the nursing profession back to its former vibrance.



A few months ago, I had a short conversation with a former colleague who was curious about the kind of business that I’m in. When I explained that I work in an agency that recruits Filipino nurses, he asked in disbelief: “uso pa ba maging nurse ngayon?


I have been familiar with this industry since I was eleven, so I immediately understood where he was coming from. Nursing used to be the profession of choice in the Philippines...around 20 years ago. The vast overseas opportunities it presents, coupled with the country’s culture of care, drove both the supply and the demand for Filipino nurses all over the world. It was not uncommon for parents or elders to coax teenagers into taking up BS Nursing so that they can get better lives abroad—just like their Tito Jun, a friend’s daughter, or any relative of theirs in the first or second degree. The profession became so popular that in 2010 alone, 175,295 nursing students took the Philippine Regulation Commission’s Nurse Licensure Exams, of whom 67,390 became registered.


Nowadays, a few thousands of Filipinos still pursue nursing, but the numbers are low compared to how they used to be. The availability of other attractive professions especially in the BPO sector; the more complicated procedures of applying for overseas nursing jobs; and the longer and more expensive K-12 academic curriculum are some of the factors that may have caused this decline. It also doesn’t help that the shortage of nurses—both here and abroad—has grown worse, to the point that hospitals and healthcare institutions are scrambling for candidates on a daily basis.


Agencies like us do come in handy in times like these, but recruitment alone can only do so much. If we keep on recruiting nurses without any new ones joining the workforce, pretty soon we’ll be scraping the bottom of the barrel. The problem must be solved from the root cause, which in this case seems to be the waning interest in the nursing profession itself.


In line with this, we launched Bequest: Scholarship for Nurses this year. Bequest is a scholarship program designed for Filipinos who want to continue or pursue the nursing profession. Through partnering with overseas employers and top nursing schools in the Philippines, we provide nursing scholarships to encourage current nursing students to deepen their commitment to the course and attract more incoming college students towards the nursing profession. For our initial run, we partnered with Vintage Health Resources, a U.S. client of ours since 1998, to offer scholarships to incoming second year students of Trinity University of Asia – St. Luke’s College of Nursing.


the official logo of the Bequest scholarship program

We kicked things off by sending our proposal to Dr. John Michael Lorena (Dean, St. Luke’s College of Nursing) and Ms. Jeanette Victoria A. Naval (Chair, Committee of Scholarships and Financial Assistance) of Trinity University of Asia in August. From here, everything progressed quickly since the school was very responsive to the program and had a ready, organized platform for accommodating scholarships. Right after our contract signing on August 22, the school recommended 20 candidates for the Bequest program which we immediately invited to apply.


Dr. John Michael Lorena, PhD and Ms. Jeanette Naval of TUA - St. Luke's College of Nursing signing the official Bequest contract

Out of the 20 candidates who submitted applications, we invited 15 to the initial screening. My teammates Jossel Asis (Recruitment Supervisor) and Nissy Tolentino (Recruitment Supervisor) conducted face-to-face interviews among the candidates on August 30, of whom 10 were eventually selected for the final screening.


Recruitment Supervisors Jossel Asis and Nissy Tolentino conducting the Initial Screening

On September 7, the 10 candidates were interviewed by three reputable judges:


Dr. Carmencita A. Lingan, RN, PhD. Professor at Trinity University of Asia Graduate School, Master of Arts in Nursing; Nurse Consultant of Vintage Health Resources


Dr. Angela A. Yu, PhD. Project Consultant at Development Dimensions International; Senior Lecturer at University of the Philippines-Diliman, Department of Psychology


Dr. Efren B. Reyes, MD. Consultant at National Center for Mental Health; Physician Psychiatrist at Sunshine Wellness and Recovery Center


Dr. Angela A. Yu, PhD; Dr. Carmencita Lingan, BSN, PhD; and Dr. Efren A. Reyes, MD deliberating right after the Final Screening

The final screening was challenging for them since the 10 candidates all proved to be very promising. However, they were only allowed to choose three students out of the group, so they had to do the difficult task of selecting the ones who have bested the others in terms of their academics and performance during the application process.


On September 10, we finally announced the three students that the panel selected. Incoming second year students Mr. John Rey Ramirez, Ms. Julia Canonizado, and Mr. Francis Josef Valeriano of TUA – St. Luke’s College of Nursing were awarded as the winners of this year’s Bequest run and were invited to a congratulatory dinner last September 21.


John Rey Ramirez, Julia Canonizado and Francis Josef Mariano are Bequest's first ever scholars

The Bequest: Scholarship for Nurses program was a rewarding experience for everyone involved. John Rey, Julia, Francis and TUA – St. Luke’s College of Nursing probably thought that they’re the only winners of the program but in reality, the rest of us felt like champions as well. Through Bequest, VHR and Abba gained a deeper appreciation for Filipino nurses and how integral their role is in local and global health care. Through our conversations with the students and teachers, we also realized that more must still be done for nurses, due to the many hurdles that they have to face and sacrifices that they have to make.


Answering my colleague’s question of “uso pa ba maging nurse ngayon?”, sa totoo lang, hindi na katulad ng dati. But I am not giving up. I strongly believe in the importance of the nursing profession in the Philippines and programs like Bequest will hopefully help bring it back to its former vibrance. Things like these do take time so I’d probably have the same answer the next time I meet this colleague. I’ll make sure, though, that he knows about the things that groups like us are doing because who knows? He might turn out to be another advocate for bringing nursing back in the Philippines too.


Congratulatory Dinner with everyone who made Bequest happen (from left to right): Wella Untalan (Recruitment Specialist, Abba Personnel Services, Inc.); Nestor Flores (President, Abba Personnel Services, Inc.); Francis Josef Mariano (Bequest scholar); John Rey Ramirez (Bequest scholar); Julia Canonizado (Bequest scholar); Jossel Asis (Recruitment Supervisor, Abba Personnel Services, Inc.); Jenny Ora (Recruitment Supervisor, Abba Personnel Services, Inc.); Karla Yu (Special Projects Officer, Abba Personnel Services, Inc.); Dr. Lingan, RN, PhD (Judge, Bequest); Dr. Angela A. Yu, PhD (Judge, Bequest); Melanie Beckham (Vice President, Vintage Health Resources); Bob Zimmerman (Founder, Vintage Health Resources); Dr. John Michael Lorena (Dean, St. Luke's College of Nursing) and Sonia Fernando, RN (Nurse Consultant, Abba Personnel Services, Inc.)

Karla Yu is the Special Projects Officer of Abba Personnel Services, Inc. She joined the team last August 2016 and has pioneered several projects ever since, such as the company's Marketing standards and practices; the Abba.ph Apply Online System; and Abba's sister company Tracker, an overseas licensing agency. She was a former brand management practitioner handling internationally-recognized brands, such as URC's C2 Cool and Clean and McDonald's Breakfast / 24 Hours. She is an Honorable Mention graduate of the Ateneo de Manila University's BS Communications Technology Management curriculum, and was one of the business course's top 10 students.

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