The Transnational Labour Migration of Filipina Nurses to Canada during the 1950s and 1960s

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 08:30
Oral Presentation
Valerie DAMASCO, University of Toronto, Canada
In this paper, I discuss the transnational labour migration of Filipina nurses who immigrated to Canada during the 1950s and 1960s when the country faced a labour shortage of nurses. I conducted oral history interviews with two cohorts of retired Filipina nurses: (i) nurses who were recruited from the Philippines and worked in hospitals across Canada; (ii) former exchange visitor nurses who were provisionally employed in American hospitals through the U.S. Exchange Visitor Program (EVP) prior to relocating to Canada. All of my participants were hired as staff nurses and subsequently as registered nurses after obtaining licensure from provincial nursing regulatory institutions. Notably, half moved into supervisory positions such as director of nursing, nursing coordinator, or head nurse. I argue that various forms of historical, structural, and social influences prefigured the mobility of Filipina nurses to and within Canada during the mid-twentieth century. The nurses completed training at elite private nursing schools established by the U.S. colonial government during the annexation of the Philippines and hence was founded according to an American model of nursing curriculum and practice. Further, they were trained by Filipina professors who completed postgraduate education at distinguished American universities during the 1940s (e.g., Columbia University School of Nursing, University of Michigan School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing). On their return to the Philippines, they were appointed as educational administrators of the nursing schools my participants attended. My participants also maintained connections with earlier waves of Filipina nurses who immigrated to the United States and Canada and who are also graduates of the nursing schools they attended. Through these networks, my participants learned about employment opportunities in the United States and Canada as well as how to navigate the labour migration process which contributed to their mobility in the Canadian nursing profession.