Babysitters no more, Filipino nurses in Spain find place on COVID-19 frontlines

Sandra Sotelo Aboy, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 10 2020 10:42 AM

Medical staff from Gregorio Maranon hospital react as neighbours applaud from their homes in support for healthcare workers, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Madrid, Spain, April 6, 2020. Susana Vera, Reuters

MADRID - Filipino nurses here are ditching their odd jobs to respond to the Spanish government's call to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic in one of the worst-hit countries in Europe.

The Ministry of Employment here is accelerating the issuance of work permits to immigrants with medical diplomas to build a workforce against the pandemic. Nurses who have yet to qualify are called in to work.

It was a welcome announcement for Filipinos here, who were required to take extra credits to practice their profession. They also need to overcome the language barrier.

Jionisia Rosario was accepted for the first time in a Spanish hospital after working as a babysitter here for 2 years.

“I don’t want to miss this job opportunity. It is also helping our fellow Filipinos and being of service to the society that has embraced me,” said Rosario.

Some of the Filipino nurses working in Spain. Sandra Sotelo Aboy, ABS-CBN News

Aileen Grace Carillo is now practicing her nursing studies after working as a waitress. She said she had to soothe her parents' fears.

“They used to push me to pursue my nursing career in Spain, but then, they were also hesitant to let me work. I had to make them realize that nursing is actually a risky job, pandemic or not,” the 25-year old Carillo said.

“One of my COVID patients thanked me before leaving hospital. He said that the care and help I extended to him were priceless. When you hear those words from patients who were in a battle against death, it just boosts up your spirit to keep on,” she said.

John Matthew Villapol, who was into emergency medical services in the Philippines and currently works as a language teacher, was hired even when he was only thinking of volunteering.

“I saw the post on Facebook and I asked if I could still get the job even if I’m not exactly a nurse and within 2 days, I was in the hospital,” said Villapol.
 
Incorporation in the hospital was not easy for Filipino nurses, who had not practiced their medical training for years. Some were assigned double shifts and attended to as many as 60 patients.

“They left me to learn the system on my own. I said to myself, I can do this. I didn’t give up and tried to remember my training and experience back in the Philippines,” said Christel Castro.

For Catherine Aquino, nursing is a vocation.

“I’m here to help them. Every day, I have to pray and hold on to my faith that as I save lives, God will also protect me so I could go back home to my 4-year-old child,” she said.

As of April 8, Spain holds the second highest number of COVID-19 cases worldwide registering 146,690 confirmed cases and 14,555 mortality count.