Why many Filipino applicants for nurse jobs in UK find IELTS exam hard

Rose Eclarinal, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 17 2017 06:51 PM

Filipino nurses in the United Kingdom are known for their excellent clinical skills and very high standard of spoken and written English.

So when a recent news came out about nurses recruited for a hospital failing the language test, many Pinoys were baffled. 

According to the report, 52 of the 59 candidates at the Medway Maritime Hospital in Kent failed their International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exams.

All non-EU trained nurses are required by the Nursing and Midwifery Council or NMC to have a band score of 7 in each of the category of the IELTS. NMC is the regulator for nursing and midwifery professions in the UK.

Many who have already taken the IELTS exam admit it wasn’t easy to pass the language proficiency exam. 

“Sa akin kasi, nahirapan ako sa writing. So, ang advise ko lang, for example, sa reading, they should not stick to the question for a long time. They should be aware of the time allotted each module,” said Marben Orfiano, biomedical scientist at the Royal London Hospital. 

“Sa atin kasi, we are not really focused on writing essays, doing the reading all the time. More on practical things tayo sa nursing and physio. Filipino nurses are one of the best nurses in the whole world. They can speak and understand. It’s just the way they express it through writing, so yun dapat ng focus nila,” said health care assistant Ela Hidalgo.

An agency recruiting nurses to work in the UK says most of its applicants fail in the writing exam.

“According to client feedback, the most common problem that Filipino nurses are experiencing is actually not achieving the required band score which is 7 in each category,” said recruitment manager Geophel Valmoted Cajulis. 

“We strongly believe that Filipino nurses have more than enough capacity to be able to achieve a band score of 7 sa IELTS. It’s just a matter of doing the preparation,” said Smart Heart Recruitment Agency co-founder Darrel Cajulis.

Nurses in the UK are also known to be caring and compassionate, which is why many British employers prefer them. 

Myra Arines, a hematologist at the Royal London Hospital, said Pinoys have leverage but they need to pass the NMC requirements. 

“Kasi 'di ba, sanay tayo sa American English. Iba yung UK English at American English. Sa tingin ko, 'di tayo dapat ma-discourage. Yun unang dating namin dito nag-adjust din ako kasi yung mga ginagamit na term, hindi yun ang nakasanayan natin kasi sanay tayo sa American English,” she said. 

According to information-data services provider NHS Digital, there is a shortage of health care professionals in the UK with nurses and midwives accounting for the highest shortages, around 11,400 vacant posts in March 2017. 

When the UK leaves the European Union, the vacancies are expected to increase.

Filipino nurses are likely candidates to fill up the vacancies. They just need to meet the steep requirements of the Nursing and Midwifery Council. With Marco Pajo, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau