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Dissecting Cynthia Villar's "Room Nurse" Issue

Posted Mar 09 2013 7:46am
Cynthia Villar meets the nurses
Before anything else, I would like to ask all my readers to have an open mind on this issue. I raised several points in our short meeting and was cordial in our conversation. 

Prior to our meeting yesterday, March 8th, I was already talking to Senator Pia Cayetano's Chief of Staff who relayed that Senator Pia would like to ask me if I would be open for a dialogue with Mrs. Villar. She knew that I would keep an open mind about the issue and hear Mrs. Villar objectively. I told Senator Pia that I am open for a dialogue from their camp (Senator Pia and I have been together during the RH Bill's campaign and the issue of nurse exploitation). Noting my previous article I said that I knew the pressure on being in national TV, having a very limited time in responding and other factors that might have affected Mrs. Villar's careless response. 

Two days after I received a phone call from the Office of Senator Manny Villar asking for a scheduled meeting with the senator and his wife. I was invited in my personal capacity but I requested if I can bring along some nurse bloggers who can also write about the meeting. The meeting was set on March 7 but since my flight from Cebu was moved to 9:00 PM, I have to reschedule to March 8 at dinner time after the NCR Public Consultation on the RH Law's IRR.

I selected some of the members of the Philippine Health Bloggers Society to join me in the meeting. All is set.

Meeting the VillarsIt would be my first time to meet the Villar couple and quite unexpectedly in an issue that would make us both awkward. We arrived minutes before her. 
Before we met, I am thinking of different scenarios that might transpire in our meeting. But I would like to be decent and professional, so I told myself to keep an open mind and listen to her intently, suspend my judgment and from there, speak.
The Room NurseWe didn't waste time in discussing the issue at hand and the minute she arrived and after our cordial acquaintances we sat next to each other and she started to explain the issue.
To her, it was a statement out of context; to me, it was just plain ignorance of the profession and the wrong usage of the word. 
She starts to explain that during the time she was the Chairperson of the House Committee on Higher & Technical Education in 2005 that CHED and the Technical Committee on Nursing Education (TCNE) aim to close nursing schools which have failed to affiliate with a tertiary hospital. Villar pointed out that CHED should have not let these schools be operational in the first place and told that students coming from those schools who will be closed down might have hard time transferring or if not finding jobs should they stop schooling.
Let me post her statement again: Pero yung amin po, ay sinasabi po namin sa kanila na actually, HINDI NAMAN KAILANGAN ANG NURSE AY MATAPOS NG BSN, KASI ITONG ATING MGA NURSES, GUSTO LANG NILA MAGING "ROOM NURSE." SA AMERICA OR SA OTHER COUNTRIES ANO LANG SILA, YUNG PARANG MAG-AALAGA. HINDI NAMAN SILA KAILANGAN GANOON KAGALING."

What she had in mind was having a ladderized program for nurses. According to her, what she really intended to say is that should a nursing student fails to finish his/her BSN degree he/she can still be either a certified caregiver or a midwife whichever the degree accommodates. For her "hindi naman kailangan ang nurse ay matapos ng BSN" would refer to her recommendation to CHED for a ladderized program for nurses.
"Room nurse" according to her would mean a nursing student who has not finished his/her nursing course and may opt to become a certified caregiver instead (in reference to "parang mag-aalaga").

"Hindi naman sila kailangan ganoon kagaling" would again refer to what she had in mind: a nursing student who has not finished his/her nursing degree in comparison to a BSN degree holder and eventually a professional registered nurse. 
Pure IgnoranceAs we intently listen to her speak, my impression was that she is entirely ignorant of the nursing degree and the process of how one becomes a registered nurse. 
I made mention that prior to the current BSN curriculum, the profession had General Nursing or G.N. which is a degree lower than that of the 4-year Bachelor's of Science in Nursing. She also does not know how one can be a certified caregiver in the country.
Aside from the fact that she is totally ignorant of the profession, she have this manner of saying things that would be interpreted differently by others especially those who do not know her personally. Perhaps what made that statement in bad taste was her way of constructing her sentence and the delivery of her response. She does not know how to call those students who have not finished the degree for which I briefly replied "call them BSN undergraduates".

Meeting with nursesOver dinner I asked Mrs. Villar if she has met with other nursing groups about the issue. She honestly responded that she already did and is scheduling to meet with other groups in the next days. Prior to our meeting she met with Ang Nars Partylist but she forgot to mention the name of those she met from the group.
With Senator Manny Villar
Ang Nars Partylist had a dialogue with her even before we met. I asked her what transpired during the dialogue and she said that the partylist group discussed their platform of governance including the establishment of Ang Nars Clinics which got her interest. According to her, she would want to look into the details of the Ang Nars Clinics.
I went on to say that there was a similar endeavor done by the Department of Labor & Employment before that grants small funds for groups of nurses to establish nursing clinics. I told her that the first clinic under that project was in Mindanao and another one in Cebu. She is interested to look into the developments of these nursing clinics. She said she'll help Ang Nars Clinic proposal.

We were the other group she met. But our group thinks it would be better if we write what transpired in the meeting and to post photos that we indeed had a dialogue with her. She is also scheduled to meet with PNA-America. 
Putting a period to the issueBefore Senator Manny Villar arrived, I asked her candidly of what the Senator told her after the hulabaloo. She was very quick to answer with a smile "sabi niya wag na daw akong magpa-interview..." which gained laughter from the group. She said that she really wanted to be silent after issuing an apology but she wanted to respond because she did not want to be branded as 'stupid'.
She was also regretful in trying to answer a very complicated question with a very limited time. To her, she could have just said that she cannot provide a comprehensive answer to a complicated issue. 
Post-meeting impressionsOne of my colleagues who was there immediately said "I tried to be angry with her, but I can't.", another one said "I just feel sorry for her..."
As for me, all I can say is that a person who is a public figure or who aspires to be one should really know what they are saying and know how to say it publicly especially if this is in the media for many people will interpret it wrongly and will take it against you.
Meeting her in person and hearing her directly solidified my earlier assumption that she speaks naturally that way - like an insincere and monotonous person. But in person, one cannot deny that she thinks and means well, but said it wrongly entirely, and that a discerning and rationale person would somehow get what she is trying to convey but just cannot cross the other line properly.
Our meeting was barely two hours and we have to call it a night for they have another event to attend to. Before she left I did not promise anything to her but only this article which I will express my thoughts about the recent meeting for she agreed and asked me to send her a copy so she can read it.

Finally, I will reiterate my stand that I have forgiven her of such imprudent response on national TV, but I won't hold back any nurse who might want to still campaign against her even after I write this article. 
For my fellow nurses, as a compassionate and caring individuals we are, I fervently hope that any one, not just Cynthia Villar for this instance, be forgiven should they ignorantly degrade the profession, but keeping in mind that the perception of the public on the Filipino nurses would also lie on how we want others to perceive us and how we continue to engage the public and key stakeholders to educate our plight. 
This meeting with the Villars made me understand that sometimes even how noble your intentions are, your words, gestures and delivery would change all that; that the public will see a speck of wrongdoing and never forget it despite of any other efforts you have done; and that forgiveness is an act of mercy - given even if the person do not deserve such - but out of that forgiveness comes justice. This justice is the price one has to pay, and in this case, losing thousands of possible votes from the nursing profession is the justice well served for them.
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