Filipino Immigrant Nurses Not Immune to Acculturation
Despite being the second largest Asian American group, Filipino Americans have once been referred to as “forgotten Asian Americans.” But as the Philippines continues to be the leading source of foreign-educated nurses filling the critical nursing shortage in the United States, now is not the time to forget this cultural group. The time is actually ripe for developing a better understanding of the unique cultural adjustments and the effects on migrating Filipino nurses in order to ensure that this nationwide response to filling the nursing gaps is effective.
Several researchers have noted the need to study the Filipino Americans as a unique group and as independent from other Asian cultures. Filipino Americans are often categorized under the Asian American umbrella group but such generalization does not take into account important granularities such as the deeply ingrained historical and cultural influences of Spain and the United States on the Filipino identity development The Philippines, having been a colony of Spain for over 300 years and of the US up until the last century, has a long history of colonial influence that has made a lasting imprint on the Filipino culture.
Such uniqueness prompts for the need for a culture-specific awareness. Filipino Americans have dealt with the issue of invisibility and have been referred to as the “forgotten Asian Americans” despite being the second largest Asian American group. However, as the Philippines continues to be a leading source of nursing workforce supply in the US, such invisibility is counterproductive.
The long history of US-Philippine relationship in the last century has greatly contributed to the push-pull relationship between the nursing gap in the US and the influx of Filipino nurses
eager to leave their economic situations in the Philippines. Several years ago, US Congress was urged by hospital employers to authorize legislation that will facilitate the recruitment of more foreign-educated nurses. The Filipino people’s long history of a culturally ingrained admiration for the nursing profession coupled with the dream common to many Filipinos of coming to the US are a perfect complement to America’s nursing shortage. Having been a colony of the US, Filipinos are deeply familiar with the American culture, language government system, and educational curriculum. Plus with the welcome presence of global media bringing the American pop culture to the Philippines, Filipinos are usually familiar with all things American. With such anecdotal characterizations, it is easy to assume that Filipinos migrating to America will experience little or no acculturation problem. On top of that, there is the image of Asian Americans as the “model minority” and are successful, loyal, hardworking, and do not complain. Furthermore, the 2004 Census found that Filipino Americans belong to the upper middle class, are above poverty level, and are actually second place in ranking among all the other Asian groups in median household income. All these conditions can mask the need to study and understand Filipinos in America. However, with the steady flow of Filipinos migrating to the US to fill some of the critical nursing jobs, this group is not immune to acculturation and other migrant issues. There is a need to ensure that the acculturation issues, both known and unknown, of the nurses brought in to care for the American population are addressed and not overlooked. These nurses are part of the solution to the nursing crisis that must inherently have a way to ensure that the solution is effective and that issues including the very important facet of migration, acculturation issues, remain visible.