BY: Matthew Bencito

Nursing has been a staple of the Filipino identity for decades and the Philippines happens to be a leading exporter of nurses for the United States! Filipino nurses in the American healthcare system has become a norm for almost all Americans but how did this come to be and why the Philippines? The answer to this question is obscure but can be traced with a series of historical events, starting with the colonization of the Philippines by the United States.

In 1898, the Philippines became colonized by the United States following what Euro-Americans call Manifest Destiny, which is what they believed to be their God-given right to expand their culture, religion, and practices to foreign lands. When coming to the Philippines they justified that their arrival to the islands was to “uplift” the Filipino people by educating them
in American ways. Different educational systems were put in place and one of the most popular was the American-style nursing programs, however, the first influx of Filipino nurses didn’t come until about fifty years later.

The Philippines gained independence in 1946 and two years afterward the United States created the Exchange Visitor Program to gain international allies and oppose the Soviet Union’s propaganda during the Cold War. The Exchange Visitor Program was made to give foreigners a chance to work and study in American cities for two years in hopes that it would create cultural ambassadors for the American way of life. This was a perfect opportunity to bring in the first wave of Filipinos, seeing that a large percentage of the population took to the American education system, more specifically with the nursing programs, during the years of their colonization.

Following the events of World War II, the United States started to feel its impact on the workforce during the 1960s, especially with a critical shortage of nurses. In order to gain a supply of nurses and other professionals, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 was
passed, which also abolished the National Origins Formula, an immigration admissions policy that upheld a strict ruling on entering the United States based on race and ethnicity. Because the Philippines was successful in adopting American nursing practices, the United States spent
a lot of time advertising immigration to Filipino nurses portraying immigration as a form of boundless opportunity for a better life glorifying the USD salary.

Today, there are still thousands of nurses that come from the Philippines to work in the United States and there are now generations of Filipino-American families that have taken nursing as their career routes. About 4% of nurses in America are Filipino, but when split between states that percentage can change drastically. For example, 20% of the nurses in
California are of Filipino descent! Filipinos have been an essential part of the United States healthcare system since the early 1900s and they continue to prove that they are here to stay.

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PINAYSPHERE is a youth arts program founded by Jennifer Benitez that provides not only mentorship and networking opportunities but dialogues on culture and self care for rising FIlipina artists. This group is a safe space that caters not only to Pinay artists, but also gender non-conforming members of the creative community. It is open to youth from the ages of 12-24 years old who are actively pursuing careers in an artistic field, or who value artistic contributions.