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  • Writer's pictureKarla Yu

Number of New Filipino RNs Bounce Back in 2019

Something good this way comes for the Philippine nursing industry.

More Passers, High Pass Rate

The result of the Philippine Regulation Commission (PRC)’s November 2019 Nurse Licensure Examinations (NLEs) has finally concluded 2019 as a much better year than the previous: The year has produced significantly more passers—or new registered nurses—versus 2018, equivalent to a 39% increase.

Appendix 1: Number of NLE Passers and Pass Rates, 2017 – 2019

The year has also registered one of the highest pass rates in the history of the NLEs. 2019’s 53.97% pass rate comes only third to 1998’s 55.79% and 1996’s 54.22% scores when one looks at the more than 20-year historical data of the NLEs. This is equivalent to a difference of 12.26 percentage points versus the previous year, and 10.3 percentage points versus 1996 – 2019’s average pass rate of 43.67%.

Appendix 2: NLE Pass Rates, 1996 – 2019

Pass rates are usually influenced by a wide variety of factors. It is important to note, though, that majority of 2019’s NLE takers is composed of one of the last batches of BS Nursing students who have undergone the old and shorter academic curriculum (instead of the new and longer K-12 one). Some groups deduce that 2019 NLE takers may have felt more pressure to perform well in this year’s exams, since they’re one of the last BS Nursing graduates in the country who would’ve been allowed to take it with just 4—instead of 6—years of secondary education.

Renewed Interest in Nursing

2019 has demonstrated an improvement in the number of NLE takers as well. The year showed that there were 7.3% more individuals (~1,603 takers) versus 2018 who have taken the exams to become registered nurses. Though this growth is not as significant as that of the number of passers and the pass rate, it is at least an indication that the nursing profession may be on its way to gaining back its former appeal.

Appendix 3: Number of NLE Passers, and Takers and Pass Rates, 2017 – 2019

The PRC, health care institutions, and recruitment agencies should watch out for a possible drop in the number of NLE takers in 2020 and 2021. Because the country has transitioned to the K-12 curriculum in 2013, the curriculum’s first BS Nursing graduates will only come about in 2022. Relevant parties must take this into account, especially when they’ve been used to the yearly surge of thousands of new RNs in the country.

First Increase in Takers & Passers in 8 Years

2019 may have had more takers and passers versus 2018, but putting these numbers within a 2-decade period of the NLE’s historical data tells a different story. In the late 2000s, more than 100,000 individuals took the NLEs annually, with 2010 marking an all-time high record of 175,288 takers and 67,390 passers. During this year, more than 200 out of the 460 plus nursing schools had at least 100 students take the exam.

These numbers started declining in 2011, and have kept on moving downwards ever since. Relevant parties attributed this decline to a combination of factors: the much longer and more expensive nurse application process for those who want to work in the U.S. or other overseas countries; the lack of competitive opportunities in the Philippines; and the attractive compensation that other types of profession offer (such as call centers and BPOs).

Appendix 4: NLE Passers and Takers from 1996 – 2019

This makes 2019 seem to be just a small bump in the numbers. However, there is one important upside to 2019's statistics: Its performance versus 2018, though marginal, marked the very first growth in the number of passers and takers since the 2011 decline. The number of new RNs, then, didn’t just bounce back in 2019: It bounced back for the first time ever, since eight years ago.

Appendix 5: NLE Passers, Takers and Pass Rates from 1996 – 2019

Much work still has to be done to bring Philippine nursing back to its former vibrance. The factors that caused the 2011 decline continue to affect the industry until today. The demand for Filipino nurses both in the Philippines and abroad is also steadily increasing despite minimal movement in its supply. The government, health care institutions, recruitment agencies, and other relevant parties must therefore do everything in its power to pursue programs and activities that will attract Filipinos back to the nursing profession.


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 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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