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As the United States still had to allow the massive influx of foreign nurses to its shores due to a severe lack of nurses, the number of Filipinos that sought to enter America’s nursing profession plunged by 26 percent in 2009, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) said in a statement Sunday.

A total of 15,382 Filipino nurses took the NCLEX for the first time from January to December 2009, a decrease of 5,364 compared to the 20,746 that took the examinations in the same 12-month period in 2008, according to former senator and TUCP secretary general Ernesto Herrera.

TUCP’s disclosure came shortly after the Philippines' Professional Regulation Commission bared the results of the November 2009 eligibility examinations for nurses. Only 37,527 or less than 40 percent of the 94,462 nursing graduates that took the licensure test passed—the poorest performance since 2000. To build up the competitiveness of Filipino nurses in foreign labor markets, Herrera pushed for:

* The immediate shutdown of 152 nursing schools previously classified as "substandard" by the Commission on Higher Education;

* The annual rating of the remaining 308 nursing colleges (net of the 152 to be closed down), based on the performance of their graduates in the local licensure examinations over the last five years, and the yearly publication of the rating of every college so that buyers of nursing education may be guided accordingly;

* The provision of free intensive second foreign language training, via the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, to nursing graduates seeking employment in non-English speaking countries such as Japan and the Middle East; and

* The strengthening of the capabilities of all state-owned hospitals, whether run by the Department of Health or by local governments, to provide superior clinical training to junior and senior nursing students.