Ireland and the Philippines have many things in common–both are island nations (in the case of the Philippines, over 7000 islands), republics with long memories of colonial rule and overshadowed by more powerful neighbouring states. The native cultures of both countries are overlaid with strong Christian traditions, largely Roman Catholic. Irish and Filipino people are well-educated and outward-looking, and there is a long tradition of young professionals seeking work abroad because of limited employment opportunities at home. For generations Irish nurses have plied their profession in the UK, America, Australia–on all the continents. And similarly for Filipino nurses.
Now, however, there is a startling shift in the Irish reality. From being an employee-exporting country, we have quite suddenly become a human-resources-importing nation. Now that there is rapid expansion in Irish learning disability services, there is a critical need for more hands on deck, but most of the Irish-trained healthcare professionals who were ‘exported’ are irretrievable. International recruitment firms like O’Grady-Peyton, who continue to cross-match needs and opportunities for Irish nurses wishing to work in other countries, are now inverting the import-export equation, and bringing foreign-trained nurses to work in Ireland.
I’ve been trying to get my layperson’s head around these concepts, so I was delighted when Michele Oppermann, Human Resources Manager of the Daughters of Charity Services, gave me the opportunity to chat with two of the 147 Filipino nurses who have recently been recruited to work in their centres in Dublin and Limerick.
Lowela Ducay is from Sita Province on the island of Luxon. After her training and early professional experience in Manila, she worked in Saudi for six years. When she was ready for a change of scene, she thought about Singapore, or maybe Taiwan. The O’Grady-Peyton recruiters put a new thought into her head–how about Ireland? And here she is, since last summer, on a two-year contract with the Daughters of Charity in Dublin.
Vilinda Madayag is from Manila. She arrived in Ireland last September; this is her first foreign job. She too had been considering other destinations–particularly Australia, where she has relatives. The protracted Australian visa process provided a time advantage for O’Grady-Peyton (and the Daughters of Charity). Vilinda decided Ireland might be interesting–maybe she’d see snow. (And, indeed, snow was laid on within a few hours of our chat in late February!)
I was impressed by the adaptability of the two nurses. Lowela and Vilinda had extensive experience working in theatre/surgical nursing. They hadn’t consciously planned to change their type of work, just the place in which they did it. Neither of them had any personal or professional experience of intellectual disability. But the Daughters of Charity Services must have set out their stall very convincingly!
When they arrived in Ireland, the Filipino nurses undertook a one-month orientation programme at St Michael’s Hospital, Dún Laoghaire, and spent some time at the Daughters of Charity centre at Holy Angels/Glenmaroon in Chapelizod. They found the children in the special school there very endearing. After their induction period, they were assigned to St Teresa’s, Blackrock, a residential service for adult women with significant intellectual disabilities. They have adapted very well to their new work responsibilities, learning how to cope with difficult behaviours, recognising their clients as individuals with unique personalities, and helping them to make the most of their lives in St Teresa’s, and out and about in the community.
Lowela and Vilinda say they find people in Blackrock very friendly and they like being in Ireland. They are delighted to be working for the Daughters of Charity, they value the Catholic ethos in their working environment, and they’re full of praise for the support and rapport of their colleagues, in and outside of work hours. They share a flat about a mile from St Teresa’s. After a recent weekend in London, they were delighted to get back here, away from the hustle and bustle. The 16-hour journey to the Philippines is too exhausting and too expensive for a quick break for R&R, but Lowela and Vilinda said that they can take their full holiday entitlement ‘at one go’, so it is feasible to make one trip home to the Philippines during the year.
I’m sure not everyone has settled into Irish life and work as well as Lowela and Vilinda appear to have done. Some may not have such good language skills; they may have left a partner or children behind; or, indeed, a few may not have a genuine affinity for working in learning disability. But I came home from my chat with the conviction that our human resources strategists were ‘spot on’ when they decided to recruit in the Philippines.