IN JANUARY of this year, the result of the November 2009 Philippine Nursing Licensure Examination was released. Only 37,527 out of 94,462 examinees passed the said exam. The passing rate is a dismal 39.73 percent.

The figures raise a red flag in the nursing community and those who wish to be a part of it. They point to the decline of an already questionable quality of nursing education in the country.

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What is causing the deterioration of the quality of nursing education? Contrary to the belief of many, it is not just an outdated curriculum that has set off nursing education stumbling down a slippery slope; there are several other things.

One of them is the failure of the nursing schools to properly screen applicants for teaching posts. Certain schools employ nurses who do not have adequate clinical experience. Then there are others that hire those who are simply not adept at teaching (I do need to point out that a seasoned nurse does not necessarily make a good educator).

Then, there are those who hire nurses with questionable skills (using any other adjective other than “questionable’ is simply inexcusable!). This is what I would like to tell those who believe that a change in the curriculum is the sole answer to the decline in the quality of nursing education and of nursing care given by new nurses (I yield that these people have a lot of “head knowledge” but I highly doubt if they are knowledgeable about what goes on inside schools and clinical areas).

How is it that a nurse is hired as a clinical instructor (CI) when she does not know how to properly use the Glasgow Coma Scale, a tool used to assess the level of consciousness of a person? How is it possible that a CI is designated to supervise students in an intensive care unit when she does not know how to suction secretions from an endotracheal tube, a type of artificial airway? How is it that a CI is assigned to teach students in the medical-surgical ward when she doesn’t know how to administer a medication through the intradermal route (i.e. introducing a small amount of medication into the skin to check for allergic reaction)? These are just some of the many things that make me wonder about what goes on in the screening process or if there is actually one in certain nursing schools.

Another is the failure of the schools to properly develop CIs. Putting the nurses through a postgraduate study is not enough as earning a master’s degree in nursing does not necessarily make them better teachers. Look, I’m not saying that postgraduate studies are not important. What I’m saying is that it is not the be all and end all of the development of CIs.

CIs should be put through training programs that will enhance their skills as researchers and lecturers. They should be taught to be better users of the English language (it’s not anymore just students who are entering colleges with substandard skills in using English). Wait a minute! CIs are supposed to teach Nursing and related sciences, not English!? you say. Let me remind you that most if not all of the published literature used as references in Nursing are in English. So there?s definitely going to be a problem if CIs are not good in reading and comprehension.

Finally, there’s a failure of the authorities to crack down on poorly performing nursing schools. By choosing not to close down these despicable institutions (if you can even call them institutions), they are tolerating people preying on students who honestly want nothing more than a good education whether they’re taking Nursing as a first college degree or not.

I sincerely hope that the problems that truly plague nursing education would be addressed. If such things will still be overlooked by nursing schools, the Commission on Higher Education (Ched), and some of the pillars in nursing education, then the quality of nursing education in our country will certainly continue to plummet, perhaps faster than we can say ?Go nurses!?