Why there are so Many Filipino Nurses in the US: A Video Explanation

We talked about how Filipino American nurses have been hard hit by the Coronavirus, which makes sense since they are a significant proportion of the US nursing workforce compared to their proportion of the general US population.  How did that occur, especially as the Philippines itself has a shortage of nursesThis video from Vox explains how that happened.  I greatly appreciated the long historical context that it provides.  My mother came to the US from the Philippines almost 70 years ago, part of a long trend that continues today.

The video features Empire of Care author Catherine Ceniza Choy, who explains the origins of the Filipino American workforce in the American colonial notion of “Benevolent assimilation.”  Choy’s book Empire of Care goes into further detail from the material in the video.  It’s interesting how long this process of absorbing nurses from the Philippines has gone on.  As I mentioned, my mother came here as a nurse several decades ago, and almost 40 years after that, The Wife came here as a nurse.

I found the video enlightening, but thought it missed a key point.  While Jokoy makes jokes about it, many children of Filipino immigrants who are born in the US are strongly encouraged (pushed) to become nurses, as nursing is considered to be a “safe” and lucrative profession.  I know many Filipino American children of nurses who are also nurses.

Will Filipino Americans continue to have a disproportionate share of the US nursing workforce?  It’s hard to say.  While there has been a ban on new H1B applicants, Trump’s ban makes an exemption for people working on COVID-19 related healthcare issues.  There are many more US born graduates of nursing programs than in the past, but an aging US population is likely to keep demand for nurses high.

(h/t:  Number Two Son)

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About Jeff

Jeff lives in Silicon Valley, and attempts to juggle marriage, fatherhood, computer systems research, running, and writing.
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