Why Foreign Nurses are Good for Hospitals in Japan

CHIBA – Competent nurses from Asian countries are bringing favorable changes to hospitals in Japan amid an acute shortage of labor.

“They gave us the power to tackle our sense of stagnation,” said Sayaka Fujita, a 41-year-old nurse at Sodegaura Satsukidai Hospital in Sodegaura, Chiba Prefecture, referring to Vietnamese nurses who have worked at the hospital.

Since 1994, the hospital has trained a total of 10 Vietnamese female nurses as part of a joint program with other hospitals. They not only helped the hospital address its labor shortage but also had other favorable effects.

The Vietnamese women, including many who studied in Vietnam to become doctors, proved highly competent. They studied at a nursing school in Japan for three to four years and passed the national qualification exams they took under exactly the same conditions as Japanese applicants.

They also acquired high levels of Japanese language skills and some even taught “kanji” characters to Japanese.

The Vietnamese nurses worked energetically in various sections, including the emergency ward, and took long leaves of absence to visit their home country. As Japanese nurses thus became less hesitant to take such leave, the hospital saw the rate of nurses leaving their jobs decline.

Vietnamese nurses helped create “an atmosphere that enables us to take days off at ease,” Fujita said.

“We now have a virtuous cycle of Japanese and foreign workers helping each other to grow,” Takahiro Yada, head of the hospital’s planning department, said.

At Kashiwado Hospital, also in the city of Chiba, Vietnamese nurse Dinit Thi Chuc has been working for 11 years. The other Vietnamese nurse at the hospital is a nine-year veteran and is now on maternal leave.

Long-term work is possible because the hospital offers generous support for child-rearing nurses, according to Chuc, 34, who received permanent resident status three years ago and lives with her husband and two children. Chuc took maternal leave for the two children.

The two Vietnamese nurses are “indispensable for us,” chief nurse Kinuko Ogino said. “We will continue efforts to create work environments friendly to important staff members.”

Satsukidai and Kashiwado are pioneer cases of hospitals accepting Asian trainees in Japan.

The country faces a shortage of nurses and care workers as many of them leave their jobs because of tough working environments or on the occasion of marriage and childbirth, while demand for these jobs is increasing in a rapidly aging society.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare estimates that 2 million nurses will be needed at hospitals and nursing-care facilities as well as for home-care services in 2025, up 500,000 from now.

Against this backdrop, Japan began accepting people who want to be nurses and caregivers from Indonesia in 2008 under a bilateral free trade agreement. Since then trainees have been accepted also from the Philippines and Vietnam under similar agreements.

Of about 840 trainee nurses from the three countries, 128 have passed Japan’s national exams for nurses, while more than 1,500 trainee caregivers have come.

In August this year, Satsukidai accepted two Vietnamese men as trainee nurses through a program under the Japan-Vietnam agreement. They have been studying hard in a bid to pass an annual examination in next February to qualify to work as nurses in Japan.

“I want to work in Japan and learn nursing skills,” Nguyen Son Ha, 27, one of the Vietnamese trainees, said in halting Japanese.

Ha received Japanese language education for a year in Vietnam before coming to Japan but has much room for improvement.

The acceptance of foreign nurses places a “burden” on a hospital because it has to teach Japanese to the trainees almost from scratch, said the hospital’s planning department head Yada.

But the hospital decided to accept the Vietnamese trainees because of its favorable past experience.

(Source: Kisaku Seno, Kyodo News – ABS-CBNnews.com)

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