I Pushed Trolleys Instead of Pushing Wheelchairs

“And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, KEEP LOOKING. DON’T SETTLE. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know where to find it.” – Steve Jobs

Twenty one years ago, as a young, innocent seven year-old girl, I climbed on to my grandfather’s hospital bed where he was being treated for a mild stroke in the hospital and said, “I want to be a doctor when I grow up”. My late grandfather looked at me in the eye and said “Oh, you will be someday”. Of course, as young as I was, I did not know the financial requirement, neither the rigorous mental and physical demands to be one. I guess that is why it is so easy for children to answer you instantaneously when you ask them what do they want when they grow up. We never knew what it takes to be a doctor, a lawyer or to be the president of the country. Perhaps, our infantile minds was cosseted from the harsh reality of growing up and the necessary conditions to achieve our dreams, because if we already knew what was required of us to be in certain careers, we might have given up earlier, knowing that to be where we are now forced us to give up a lot of things and certain priorities.

Whenever we were asked to introduce ourselves, and what do we wish to become when we grow up during the first day of class throughout my entire years in primary school, I never stopped saying “When I grow up, I want to become a doctor” in my shrill, child like voice. I still wrote the same dream in my English classes and essays. In college, I chose a degree which is highly similar to medicine, thinking that by any chance, this will help as my pre medical course and my ticket to medical school. I was passionate about the human anatomy, the mechanisms of drugs in the body, the physiologic processes of the body, and my fascination about the heart. I pursued a higher degree after graduation while finding a way to get into medical school. While in the university, I have realized that it is very expensive and it’s getting costlier to study medicine. My priorities changed. And so my financial obligations were. I stayed with Nursing for a while, until the reality stepped in – it is no longer necessary to stay in the course of your degree anymore, rather, it is all about the money, the pecuniary responsibility and the growing daily expenses and consumerism. With the reality that slapped me very hard in the face, I had no choice but to give up on my idealistic dream of becoming a doctor.

I am now on my seventh to eighth year of being employed. I am in my second job now which is absolutely, totally, utterly incongruent to Nursing. Oftentimes, I am asked why I am in the flying industry when in fact I am a nurse. Let me tell you why:

A nurse in the Philippines earns roughly less than 450 USD as an entry-level or even an experienced nurse. That is roughly less than twenty thousand pesos. The downsides are the huge tax imposed on single and employed individual, plus the loans here and there. What is left is painfully allotted to fare, food, rent and utilities. If you are single and belongs to a well to do family, you can happily spend some of your money on shopping, food and what nots. If you are obliged to help your family, go figure how much is left sans all those deductions.

The Philippines produced a lot of nurses when the nursing demand in the US soared to ceiling high, where a Filipino nurse can move to America and work in less than six months to one year of processing. A lot of nursing schools opened and a lot of ambitious and young individuals enrolled or were rather forced by their parents in the hope of the golden ticket to the America. But then the US economy slumped sometime in 2007 and the demand for nurses was reduced. The Philippines produced a lot of nurses, but there is less job opportunities.

The older you get in the nursing industry, the more experienced nurse you become. The hospitals favored their old employees and hesitant to acquire fresh graduates. Newly graduate nurses needed to be trained. The experienced ones knew the drill already, has gathered significant trainings thus require less time to train and can be deployed alone immediately.

The government does not have a concrete support system in the health care aspect of its people. There is less financial subsidy on healthcare and the medical workforce in general.

So, we would rather be in the call centers, talking insults from irate callers and patiently assisting clients with technical issues because we have a hard time getting political support from officials who can help us get into the public hospitals or we don’t have high profiled relatives who can help us into private clinics or hospitals.

We would rather be sales agents in various fields, because we are massively employed, paid better and preferred given our educational background and rigid educational training rather than earn a measly salary and with the severe seniority culture in every hospital settings.

We prefer to serve foreigners in the Middle East through hospitality services and manage retail businesses of the rich Arabs because we earn more and we have a chance to go abroad. While it is true that nurses can migrate abroad, we are required to come up with huge amount of money to process our documents, examinations and visa pre requisites. Nurses go abroad either on a student visa, where you are required to study under various conditions so you will be allowed to practice in the hospital, or on a working visa where you need a junior to senior level experiences, plus high –priced examinations including a language test. If you or your family can afford, you can go ahead. But this does not apply to the majority of the Filipinos. And so here we are.

I love nursing. I am passionate about it. It is very close to becoming a doctor. And it is very fulfilling. I have great pride in seeing my fellow nurses achieve their nursing dreams in Australia, Canada, New York and elsewhere. I have great respect for them because I knew the hardships they all went through just to get to abroad. And I knew what they have endured just to make their dreams come true. Some are born lucky, I guess. They were destined to be one. But I also acknowledge that others were in the position because they were forced or they have nothing else to do.

But my admiration also goes to those who would have wanted to practice nursing but never had the chance. My appreciation goes to those who chose to abandon what they loved because they have to find a better paying job to support their family. I have a high regard to those who let go of their nursing dreams because they have other priorities and be something else.

I have forsaken my dream to be a nurse. My financial obligations forced me to let go of what I loved most. But to be a doctor? I know this is farfetched, but I can only promise you one thing: I walked out of the hospital in eight days and finished my nursing degree when all of my doctors concluded that I will have cerebral problems after my brain injury. That is not by sheer luck. It was my determination. ❤


I know, I am babbling again. I got nostalgic while I was in the hospital. Please forgive my blabber head.


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