Wednesday, May 23, 2012

GNIE: When the going gets tough...

I wonder if anyone noticed a tinge of frustration in my previous post on GNIE. If so, you're spot on. Last week was only the 2nd week of the 2nd semester. Yet my classmates and I are feeling the stress of the faster-paced and more demanding workload of the 2nd semester.

The thing is, when the going get tough, many of my classmates start to gripe about "why the need for GNIE" and other associated barriers to entry. E.g. the requirement for and stress of undergoing the SEC (Substantially Equivalent Competency) test, the cost of GNIE, the long duration of GNIE, why other earlier batches of internationally trained RNs were allowed to practice without jumping through these hoops, and how unfair it is that we have to do it now, etc, etc.

Since I hang out with the Filipino group in my class more often, I end up hearing more of their complaints. Over one unfortunate lunch last week, several issues crop up.

LP brought up her anger with our last semester's lecturer again, over an issue which I thought was already water under the bridge. When she started fanning old anger in IJ and AP, and tried to influence the other Filipinos in the group, I openly disagreed with her. LP insisted that our lecturer failed as a teacher when she advised AP to withdraw from the course if AP thought that she wasn't going to make it. LP cited the fact that AP passed eventually, proved that our lecturer was wrong. IJ chipped in that AP indeed would not be "here with us" if she had heeded that piece of "ill-advice" to withdraw from the course last semester, and if she had not sought alternative advice from IJ himself and me. They both hinted that they wanted to lodge a complaint and/or petition against the lecturer. I insisted that our lecturer probably did what she did because of her role/duty as a class teacher. And that if AP needed encouragement, that's what friends are for, it's not the teacher's role [given their duty to be objective and impartial]. When AP -- caught between me and LP in the argument -- wanted to drop the discussion, LP continued to push it. Our rather heated argument ended with LP and IJ going for a smoking break.
IMHO, while AP deserved kudos for the effort that she put in to pass the 1st semester's module, she really needed a lot of hand-holding and editing of her English for the online participation and her assignment. I know, because IJ and I were the ones helping her on those aspects.
A while later, LP and IJ returned from their smoking break. I was talking about workplace bullying in Singapore (see below) and added that I have seen students ganging up to bully teachers before. IJ calmed down a little, but I could tell that the issue is "not resolved" from LP's perspective. She was just holding back out of respect for the help that I've given AP to-date. Frankly, I recognize that LP is not mean at heart. She is extremely loyal to those whom she considers her in-group. I am lucky to be part of that in-group. However, I recognize that given my vastly different background, it is inevitable that we will have differences in opinions.

Another issue that cropped up over lunch that day was the unhappiness of my Filipino classmates that they had to do the GNIE program. They cited that how unfair it is that the rules had changed (i.e. until recent years, international nurses did not need to jump through the SEC and GNIE hoops). In addition, CRNBC has now raised the bar on the English standard required. I recognize that perhaps my classmates were complaining because of their own fears about completing/failing the GNIE course and/or the required English proficiency. So I "baited" them with further questions.


WD: So why don't you go to countries where you don't need to do GNIE?

DL: But the English requirements in Australia is higher. We cannot meet it.
[Addendum on 01-Jul-2012: Frankly, it isn't just the English requirement that they may not meet. All nurses wishing to work/live long-term or migrate to Australia need to have their skills assessed by the ANMAC (Australian Nursing and Midwifery Accreditation Council). The ANMAC skills assessment consists of both an English test (applicable to all internationally trained nurses) and a Competency test. The Competency test is waived for nurses from United Kingdom, Ireland, United States of America, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, and the Netherlands (HBO programs). It makes me wonder, what makes my Filipino classmates think that they can pass the ANMAC Competency test (and therefore score points for immigrating to Australia) if they did not even do well enough on the CRNBC SEC, which is why they are here in the GNIE course. Please when you're a guest in a foreign land, put aside your nationalistic pride (about how good your country's nursing training is) and learn to eat the humble pie. Besides, with the potential changes to the immigration rules, we may even be the lucky last few batches having access to the GNIE training to ease us into the nursing in Canada.]
JC chimed in on similar concerns about the required English standard.
[WD thinking to herself, "F*! It is not like the standard is unrealistically high. Blaming the system instead of improving oneself to meet the standards -- how smart is that for adapting to a foreign country?" But WD kept her cool and continued to ask questions instead, hoping that these questions would cause the group to re-think about their "right" to be an RN in Canada.]
WD: So what about countries that don't need such high English requirements? What about Singapore?

IT: But you need nursing work experience to come into Singapore. Work experience with hospitals of a certain size.

WD: Ya, acute hospitals with at least 300 beds or something like that.

IT: Yes, that experience is hard to get in the Philippines.
[IT and others (including Filipino colleagues in Singapore) ever told me about the bribery system for getting a nursing job in the Philippines. Basically, one has to pay bribes because the supply far outstrip the demand. One has to pay a bribe even for a basic, non-prestigous nursing job in a remote area. To land a job in a large, reputable, acute hospital in the Philippines, the bribe needed is significant. That's why the Filipino nurses that Singapore recruits are not the best, but those with enough money to pay the job agents. That's why classmates like IT and AP have zero nursing experience despite graduating from good nursing schools in the Philippines. That said, I found it ironic that these folks do not recognize that the B.C. Canada system gave them an opportunity to enter the nursing world here without any need for bribery. But I didn't want to rub that into their faces, given my confrontation with LP just moments ago. I decided that given the group's current self-interest and subjective mindset, I had to tackle the issue from their "benefits" perspective.]
WD: But some do. And you know what? Those who did end-up doing the same duties as others (in Singapore) but are paid less just because of their passport.

DL: What? What do you mean?

WD: That's the labour policy in Singapore. We have very little barriers to entry for foreign workers. As a result, there is plenty of supply. With little labour protection, workers are discriminated based on the passport they hold.

DL: What? My friends working in Singapore never told me that.
[So DL never heard the "negatives" from her friends in Singapore, who were probably proudly boasting only of their achievements but not of the problems they face. Yup, I've learned from observing the Filipinos here in Metro Vancouver that in a tight-knitted community such as theirs, sometimes face matters -- a lot. By then, IJ returned from his smoking break.]
WD: Yes, it is true. Can you imagine the problems it cause? The workplace bullying? Imagine, no matter how well you perform, how much better you are, you will still be paid less simply because of your passport. Your pay will only be a fraction of your colleagues', for your whole life.

IJ: So Singaporeans (nurses) are the best paid?

WD: No. Some other countries are the best paid. Then the Singaporeans. Then the China Chinese. Then the Filipinos. Then the Indians. Then the South-East Asians, and the rest.

IJ: Based on your passport?

WD: Yes, condemned for the rest of your work-life based on your passport, no matter how good you are or how well you perform. Your whole life!
[I repeated "whole life" for emphasis. DL, JC and the others had the "Oh!" *gasp* *gasp* expression.]
WD: That's why, I would rather do this (GNIE) course and be treated as equals here.

IJ: But you know, earlier batches of international nurses did not need to do the SEC and can work immediately. That's just a few years ago. And they were from the same (Filipino) nursing colleges as us. It is not fair to us -- why (sic) we have to go through the SEC and the GNIE training.

WD: Well, I prefer to jump through the hoops and be treated as equals. There would be no excuse (for discrimination) because we have met the standards and such discrimination will not happen here.

IJ: When I become an RN, I will infiltrate into CRNBC and join the union to change the policies.
[I thought immediately that perhaps precisely because those earlier batches -- who did not go through the SEC and GNIE -- did not perform well enough on-the-job, that CRNBC copied the SEC approach taken by Alberta, and raised the standard of English required. According to our GNIE lecturers, there were some foreign-trained nurses who were sent to undergo GNIE by their Canadian employers.  
By then, I was tired of trying to open the minds of my Filipino classmates. I figured at that point that I might cause a ruckus (and possibly burn some bridges) if I told them point-blank that perhaps their fellow countrymen had spoilt the market for them due to the earlier batches' underperformance on-the-job. It is something that I had observed in Singapore, foreign nursing staff skiving and under-performing once they got the job because they can count on their fellow countrymen to cover their ass and push the blame to a scapegoat (i.e. workplace bullying). If they insist that that B.C. or Canada should change to suit their subjective whims, then so be it. 
IMHO, given that there are internationally trained nurses who met the English requirements and passed the SEC at 1st go, the barriers to entry are there merely to ensure patient safety. We can only blame ourselves for not being up-to-standard and landing up in the GNIE course. Frankly, I and a couple of South Asian classmates are grateful for the step-by-step re-entry into nursing in Canada.]
WD: Hear, hear! Let's join CRNBC and the union. If you're pushing for changes to XYZ [another topic/issue that we both agree on], I will support you. But if you're advocating to remove the barriers to entry, I will oppose it.
[Later IJ talked about quitting his job over a workplace bullying incident that he experienced that week. I shared with him about the possibility of receiving Employment Insurance if he quit as a result of workplace bullying. He asked for my help with his resignation letter and I agreed. Addendum: Subsequently, the bully was removed from the workplace and IJ's previous employer kept persuading him to return their employment.]

I am sad after that lunch last week. Sad that based on our discussion, it is apparent that none of my Filipino classmates is at the calibre of my PRC friend who can take push herself to view things from a different perspective. I had thought more of the potential of my younger classmates, e.g. AP, IJ and IT. Perhaps I am wrong. Or perhaps it just takes time, and experiencing issues from the other side, for them to see things from a different perspective. I don't know. I only know that I am hearing these now partly because the going is getting tough...


  1. Having gone through NYP's Accelerated Dip in Nursing, I am surprised that you are finding the GNIE 'tough'?

    Anyway, some people have to understand that life is unfair. Suck it up. Your friends should thank their lucky stars that they are in Canada and not back in their homeland.

  2. Hi CK,

    Thanks for dropping by and your comments.

    We were very much spoon-fed in NYP. You know, the Singapore cramp-for-exams style. In addition, I remember how some of my NYP classmates would "bully" the lecturers into giving specific tips so that they can get the A's that they wanted. Thus, with the exception of clinical, I was pretty sure I would pass back in NYP, even when I was doing IT projects on the side.

    In addition, I guess I am not used to the travelling. Back in Singapore, I lived 20mins from school and 15min from the usual hospital for clinical. The current 2.5 hours each way to travel to the hospital means that an 8-hour clinical day was effectively 13 hours long. For the next 2 Mondays, we will be having 12-hour clinical shifts. My clinical group-mates were keen to reduce the number of clinical sessions. I hope I won't be burned out by the effectively 17-hour days. I could have objected to the 12-hour shifts, but I went along because I also recognize the advantages of the longer shifts, in terms of stretching our exposure.

    Yes, I agree with you that we should thank our lucky stars that we are in Canada and not back in our respective home. The question is, how to open their mindset to it?

    My difficulty with some friends from countries which are grossly unbalanced "net exporter" of human labour (e.g. PRC, India, Philippines) is that some don't seem to understand the impact of their emigration on their host countries. I guess, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something , when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!" -- Upton Sinclair. Some do and would if challenged, like my PRC friend in my blog entry below.

    My landlady works as an LPN in an acute hospital here. She was previously a doctor in China. She told me that she don't like the Filipinos at her workplace because they skive, are gossipy and gang-up against the other nationalities. IMHO, every positive trait if taken to the extreme can become negative -- relaxed/not-kiasu vs skive; sociable vs gossipy; group loyalty vs nationalistic bullying. I have been in a similar position as my landlady back in Singapore.

    In the 1st semester, my Filipino classmates gave me a positive experience of their cultural traits. In the 2nd semester, I found the shift in their complains and attitude distressing, even though none of their frustration was directed at me. [In fact, they have been & are still very supportive of me.] I guess I'm worrying too much -- that I don't want to enter a future workplace dominated by people exhibiting the negative extremes of their (in reality, positive) cultural traits.

    Ok, that means I should just calm down and meditate. Something funny happened today. I was so tired out from the stress that I couldn't sleep yesterday night. So I was really wiped out at school today and I was hoping that it would be a short day. Somehow my lecturer was sick too, so she gave us the information for self-study and allowed us to leave after 2 hours. I find the coincidence really amusing! :-D

  3. Yes, I understand what you meant by the spoon fed part. I myself have been through it. However, I studied everything and not just the topics that will come out for exams. Why? Simple. Are you going to tell your patients and their family that you don't know what to do for their case because it didn't come out for the exams?? Seriously?

    It's probably the travelling times that are taking a toll on you. I have no doubt that you are intelligent enough to handle the studies. You'll find soon enough that if you have the basics covered the rest comes easily.

    Does your budget allow for a cheap 6th hand car? Sometimes we have to spend a bit in order to enjoy the physical and mental convenience.

  4. is it okay to repost ur blog?thanks...

  5. Hi anon at May 24, 2012, 12:00:00AM,

    Thanks for dropping by and your interest.

    Except for those websites/forums which tend to attract racist, xenophobic or otherwise abusive responses, I am happy for your interest in re-posting my blog entries. If you're re-posting, please provide:
    1. a reference link from the re-posted site back to this blog, and
    2. (in a comment here) a link from this blog to the re-posted location so that I may know where my contents re-appear.

    Basically my concern regarding racist, xenophobic or otherwise abusive responses is that the people I talked about here are my friends. They are not perfect (just as I am imperfect), but I love them anyway. I do not wish for any racist, xenophobic or otherwise abusive comments to be directed at them, even though they may not be aware of such.

    Thanks again for your interest and also thanks for asking before reposting.

    Cheers, WD.

  6. Hi CK,

    Thanks for your concern and support. It's really touching even though we are on different parts of the world.

    You're right, it's probably the travelling that's getting to me. I cannot drive here with my Singapore driving license, it is not recognized. It would take time for me to get the Canadian license. I counted that I have only 9 more clinical sessions (over 5 weekends), so I am hoping to make it, one day at a time.

    Cheers, WD.

  7. hi, thank you for allowing me to repost ur blog.i recently subscribed to your posts.i am not sure yet how and where will i post it due to privacy of the person involve too, but ur story is worth hoping to write to you by PM why i want to post and how i can relate to this topic.


  8. Hi anon at May 24, 2012, 7:57:00PM,

    Thanks for your response. I look forward to reading your story.

    Cheers, WD.

  9. Hello WD,

    Its been a lot of years since you posted this blog but as I was reading it, i can't help but to agree on your opinions regarding those people from my community. I am taking sec assessment on the end of March and I honestly didn't want to read forums regarding it since I'm expecting a lot of negativity, endless complaints and weighing down from same people you expect to lift you up. I am Filipino and I admire your take on the process of chasing your dreams and how you forge meaning from those difficult times. The events you wrote, sadly are common in the Filipino community and it's so common, they don't even realize it. Its the same reason that since I landed here in Canada a year ago, I did not want to hang out or find connections with my fellow Filipino IENs now that I'm in the period of studying because I expect endless bitter complaints and negativity. Nobody wants to be drenched in that energy. I hope it will change though.

    1. Hi April,

      Thanks for dropping-by and sharing your perspective. I wish you all the best in your pursuit of your dreams.

      Cheers, WD.