Why should you migrate to the Philippines
The trip of a Filipino nurse to Germany
Maria Karen Viola works as a surgical nurse in the Department of Neurosurgery at the Freiburg University Medical Center. She completed a 4-year course in nursing, in which both theory and practical knowledge were imparted to her in the context of compulsory practical lessons or in-company training. After completing her studies, she passed the Nursing Licensure Examination (NLE Board Exams). The exam tested a wide variety of areas of nursing including: Basic Knowledge, Mother and Child, Community Care, Communicable Diseases, Adolescents, Adults and Seniors, and Mental Health and Psychiatry. Viola came to Germany in 2017 through the Triple Win Project (TWP). This project is a cooperation between the Central Foreign and Specialized Placement (ZAV) of the Federal Employment Agency and the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), which aims to place qualified nursing staff in German companies. Until recently (September 2019), 2600 nurses had already been found through twp German employers. We spoke to Maria Karen Viola about her motives to emigrate to Germany, the situation in the Philippines and her new life in Freiburg.
FES: What were your personal reasons for moving from the Philippines to Germany?
Maria Karen Viola: Aside from wanting a better work environment, my son was my main motivation. As a single mother, I am very willing to work outside of the Philippines if it can provide my son with a better life. I could work in another, better paying job, but being a nurse is part of my identity and the job I'm best suited for. I know that other countries like Canada, Australia, the United States, and New Zealand have nursing jobs too. But thanks to the good pension benefits for employees, I decided to go to Germany. Another factor was Germany's geographic location in the middle of Europe. Since life is not all about work, I wanted to work in a country from where I can go on trips and trips.
Why do you think so many Filipino healthcare professionals work overseas?
The main reason is the general situation for nurses in the Philippines. In the state and also in the private sector there is a lack of funds, for example for appropriate wages or salaries, a safe ratio of nurses and patients, care packages for employees, access to basic medical care and vacancies. In addition to the unstable economic situation, there are still too few opportunities for nursing staff and there is still a lot of room for improvement in terms of working conditions. Ensuring adequate access to health care within the Philippines is also a major challenge. However, the country is also known for its highly trained nursing staff. Thanks to recruiting programs from abroad, this leads to the most qualified and experienced workers emigrating, which in turn could potentially impair the quality of health care in the Philippines.
There are many Philippines-based recruitment companies that provide nursing jobs overseas. You came to Germany with the “Triple Win Project” (TWP). Why did you choose this program?
I decided on the “Triple Win Project” because this program is a cooperation between the German and Philippine governments and is therefore very safe. While there are many overseas recruiting firms in the Philippines, not all of them are guaranteed to have a safe and legal process. There have been many proven cases of illegal advertising practices in the Philippines, which of course I wanted to avoid. Even in the last six years, TWP has not lost its pioneering position for immigration to Germany. I believe that thanks to TWP, over 900 qualified nurses have come to Germany from the Philippines. But in fairness I should also mention that hundreds of other health professionals have come here from the Philippines through private recruitment agencies.
You are part of the Filipino diaspora network. What exactly is your work there and what does it look like?
In January 2017, 6 months before I left for Germany, I founded a closed group on Facebook for other nurses who were also due to travel to Germany this year. We used the group to connect and exchange ideas, which was very helpful in relation to everyday problems such as opening a bank account in Germany, coping with nervousness on the first day of work or improving our knowledge of German. In addition, we share resources with each other, for example in the areas of language acquisition or professional training. I also post info videos there that I create on YouTube and with which I have already been able to help nursing staff a lot, both those who are already here and those who have recently arrived. Over time, the group grew to more than 10,000 members and is now one of the first points of contact for news, help forums and other information relevant to Filipino nurses in Germany. The group is made up of nurses who are already here, those who are generally interested, those who have already started the immigration process and those from training centers. We also offer group chats there for social support and free German tuition.
You have been living in Germany for over two years now. What difficulties did you face here?
In the beginning it was very difficult for me. There were a number of problems, some of which I still struggle with: cultural integration, the German language, work culture, meeting the demands of my colleagues and, above all, homesickness. Without the support of other Filipino nurses, my German work colleagues and of course my family at home, I would not have been able to overcome these hurdles. The culture was one of the hardest parts of the whole integration, but cultural differences also taught me to be more open. Germans are more serious, more direct and disciplined, but we Filipinos are more enthusiastic and very stubborn, but rather shy. But for another two years I was able to overcome most of the problems, only homesickness and language difficulties remain - both will probably never go away completely. People from the Philippines are very family-oriented, so homesickness will be a constant companion when you live here. However, the German language is the biggest hurdle of all. Even after two years here, I still find the language incredibly difficult; Finding the right words, speaking grammatically correct and understanding other people remains a continuous learning process. Fortunately, my employer offers free language courses. I am currently attending C1 level courses in my free time.
Can you imagine living permanently in Germany or even taking on German citizenship?
To be honest, I'm still not sure if I want to stay here in Germany forever. Yes, Germany is an ideal place to live. If I could live here with my son, my answer would be a loud: Yes. But as a single parent I have a lot of uncertainty; I still don't know exactly how to get my son to live with me and what the situation would be like for single mothers like me. If there was an easy chance to bring my child here, I would want to stay for a very long time. I therefore hope for support in the area of family reunification for caregivers from abroad and special exceptions for single parents like me.
German citizenship would be a good idea, but also a very difficult decision. There are many factors to consider before changing citizenship; there are things to be given up and things to be accepted. So this is out of the question for me at the moment. My first goal would be to obtain a permanent residence permit. After that I can still decide about my future - with my son by my side, of course.
The interview was carried out as part of a focus group evaluation workshop with nurses from the Philippines, Tunisia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, which was carried out by FES and Ver.di in cooperation with the Central Foreign and Specialized Mediation (ZAV) of the Federal Employment Agency and the Society for International Cooperation (GIZ).
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