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When Speaking In Filipino Becomes A Crime

By Gel Santos Relos

Kasalanan bang magsalita sa sariling wika

kapag ikaw ay naninirahan na sa ibang
bansa katulad ng America?

"Balitang America" reported on the case of

four Filipino nurses who were fired from
their jobs at a Baltimore hospital for
allegedly speaking Tagalog during their
lunch break. They insisted their rights were
violated after Bon Secours Hospital
terminated them. The Bon Secours Hospital
imposed its English-only language rule last
November, which covered only the
emergency department, where the Filipino
nurses worked. Some hospitals impose
this rule to protect patients.

However, these Kababayans said they did

not get any warning and felt they had been
singled out. One of them said the
termination was a bigger surprise because
she worked at the human resources
department as a secretary who is not at all
involved with patient care.

Migrant Heritage Commission Executive

Director Atty. Arnedo Valera filed a
discrimination complaint on behalf of the
nurses before the US Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission. Valera argued
the hospital’s imposition of the English-only
rule violates the nurses’ civil rights. “There
was no business necessity, no rational
justification, no direct relationship between
their speaking in Tagalog and the
performance of their duties. In fact, in
almost all incidents cited, they did (speak
Tagalog) not while they were performing
their duties, but during their break time.”
These nurses believe this sets a dangerous
precedent for all foreign health care staff in
US hospitals. They seek the support of
nurses groups as they pursue their
discrimination complaint against Bon
Secours Hospital. “We got terminated
because we were talking in our native
language which is unfair to all Filipino
nurses and I’m making an appeal to the
nurses association that with this incident, I
think we need to let them know that we
didn’t harm any patient when we were
talking in our native language.”

This case is a classic example of one of the

struggles faced by Filipinos in America. We
strive hard to assimilate into American
culture and society but it seems there is
that special place in our heart that is and
will always be Filipino.

While we pride ourselves of being one of

the few immigrant communities who can
effectively communicate bilingually in both
English and our native language, English
just remains to be our second language.
We still think in Filipino, and our brain just
translates the thoughts from Filipino to
English. This can really be a complicated
process because sometimes, words and
phrases in our native tongue do not have a
direct translation in the English language.

Even the syntax, conjugation, and idioms

are totally different, making our expression
in English an even more challenging task.
We sometimes even find ourselves blurting
out some phrases in Filipino even when we
are talking to Americans. I catch my self
saying, “Di ba?”..or “Talaga?”, ”Sige”…
among many other words and phrases!

For some reasons, our tongue just seems

to have a mind of its own when we are in
the midst of our kababayans. The use of
the Filipino language just seem to come out
naturally and automatically. Maybe it is
because it feels so liberating not to have to
translate our thoughts from Filipino to
English anymore. We need not worry about
the right grammar, right pronunciation, right
diction and inflection. Nakakapagod din!
Secondly, it just feels better when we speak
in Filipino when talking to our kababayans
because we just can express our minds and
feelings better. Masarap magsalita sa
sariling wikang kinagisnan at kinasanayan
na natin! Maybe this is also our way of
connecting and re-connecting to our roots
even when we are oceans away from the

We are fully aware that when we decided to

immigrate to and work in America, we have
also implicitly agreed to the need and
propriety to speak in English. This is
America and English is her national
language.In fact, this is one of the
requirements to be imposed by the
proposed Immigration Reform Bill---
undocumented immigrants must learn how
to speak in English or they lose the
pathway to citizenship. Hard as it may be
for many of us, we just have to learn how to
write and speak in English in order to be
more productive residents and citizens of
our adoptive country.
This is just basic courtesy for other non-
Filipino speaking people whom we do not
want to alienate when we are so deeply into
our own world as we speak in our native
tongue. We ourselves feel “lost” when we
approach a group in our workplace or
community organization they just continue
speaking in their own language or dialect
despite our presence, making us think “Ako
ba ang pinag-uusapan nitong mga taong
This just breeds paranoia and fosters
distrust among different sub-groups and
cultures. Even as America is “land of the
free”, a melting pot of culture where
diversity is respected, it is still important
that we all communicate in one language
that will help us better understand each
other and "unify us all as one America".
We know in our hearts our compassionate,
efficient nurses meant well. Rightfully so, a
Maryland labor department judge has sided
with the rationale of their argument when he
ruled in favor of the Filipina nurse who was
denied unemployment benefits because Bon
Secours stated she was dismissed for grave

Administrative Judge Stuart Breslow declared, “Her actions were not intended to
deliberately violate the directive, but were merely an inadvertent action on her part to
greet and talk to a fellow employee in their native tongue. At no time during these
encounters did any discussion about a patient take place and no patient was placed at
risk as a result of her actions”.

Judge Breslow ruled that the Employer has a

right to expect that its employees will follow its
policies and directives. However, he pointed
out that while failure to abide by the directive
may be considered misconduct, the one
instance where the Claimant discussed a
patient with another employee in her native
language and the other incidents of
inadvertently greeting an employee in her
native language are not found to be a
deliberate and willful disregard of standards
that the Employer had the right to expect.
The four Filipina nurses’ lawyer Atty. Valera
said they plan to introduce the Maryland
administrative court’s ruling as additional
evidence in the discrimination complaint they
filed last month before the federal Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission.
This case is but one of the many glaring examples of how Filipinos struggle and strive
hard to blend in, get acculturated to their adopted country, while deep inside, their heart
(and their tongue) cries, “Aray! Pinoy pa rin ako—sa isip, sa salita at sa gawa!”.

You know Gel, filipino din ako, by heart, by blood and mahal ko ang Pilipinas. I work
for the US goverment may tauhan ako. Different races, hawaiian, japanese,
portuguese, chinese and local filipino. I won't allow them to speak their own dialect.
We have a code of ethics It's a courtesy. I experienced it. When i entered our lunch
room, open the door and here's a group of Samoan probation officers on their lunch
break, they look at me and they look at each other, talked and laugh. Of course i
ask myself are they talking and laughing at me? maybe they are maybe not. To me
who cares but it's still not right to speak your own dialect in the office. Maybe kung
nasa labas sila maintindihan ko pa. But for the case of this filipinas maybe they're
more into it that we don't know. They can't just get fired just for that. First if there's
a complaint they wll be reprimanded, second you can document them and third you
can write them up on their evaluation. To me it's looks like a discrimanation based
on the race i don't know but all i know where i work there's rules and procedure to
follow. Hope they get back their jobs, nowadays it's hard to find one especially US
economy is down and and a lot of layoffs and unemployed.

Gel, you have addressed the problem very succintly and clearly, devoid of negative implications.
Since there is already a legal ruling as to the Filipino Nurses' plight, it has become incumbent for
all people who have a Filipino heritage to be united as ONE, in all aspects of their lives.
As Filipino(a)s we have our inalineable rights to express our feelings, emotions, and aspirations
in the form of free speech; whether spoken in the English vernacular, or any other
language/dialect of their motherland -Islands Philippines. As long as these
speeches/conversations do not get in the way in the performance of our duties and
responsibilities and with due respect to other people's rights when they greet one another at
home, in the office, at school, and at work; it would just be perfectly natural and transparent to
do so at all times.
Since, we opted to adopt/adapt the United States of America as our new land, we must do our
very best to stand by it by respecting her laws at all times. Only when we do this as a people
united because of the Filipino blood in our veins, can we be truly called - Filipino
yeah, there are rules that need to be followed but you have to take into consideration that english
is not their native language. working in a foreign land, it's comforting to talk with your fellow
filipinos in your native tongue.
ylocanabelle is right, bpo's keep the strict "english only policy" in place within the work area
because *you are supposed to sound like you are someone who is working in the united states*
what happened here is pure racism in my opinion. you have to admit, most americans still are
like that.
it's not a crime to speak in your native tongue, whether you're in a different country or at home.
have you ever been fired from your job like these nurses because someone just happened to hear
you speak in tagalog? no? that's what i thought.

The Ramblings of a Nurse

Some people have callously accused us that we took up nursing for the money. I beg to
disagree. Nursing, although it provides a steady income, requires more than the drive to
earn money. It requires the dedication, patience and sacrifice. Being a nurse means missing
out on family occasions and festivities. It means spending more time at the hospital than at

"No man, not even a doctor, ever gives any other definition of what a nurse should be than this -
'devoted and obedient'. This definition would do just as well for a porter. It might even do for a
horse. It would not do for a policeman" ~ Florence Nightingale

It’s 0200H; the hallways are deserted except for a few nurses checking up on their patients. It is
quiet, except for the humming of the machines and faint rustling of the sheets as the sleeping
patients toss about their beds. In this dead hour of the early morning, I cannot help but
contemplate on the work which I have been blessed with. As I sit in the silence, waiting for the
time when I have to get up and go on with my routine work, I can’t help but wonder if this is
really where I’m meant to be- if this is who I was supposed to be. Am I really destined to be a

I took up nursing in a conscious effort to ease my mother’s suffering- she has been sick her
whole life. When I started working, I saw for my self the horrors of disease and illness. I saw the
struggle between life and death, between health and sickness. And what I saw was clearly etched
in my memory.

As I lost my mother to congestive heart failure, I began to lose my faith in my profession. Like a
weary soldier in a war, I have begun to question my purpose of continuing with this path. I used
to love my work; it gave me the sense of fulfillment every time I see an improvement in my
patient’s health status. I enjoyed every moment spent with providing help and care for my
patients--I loved being a nurse. But nursing for me has taken up a different meaning since
working in the Middle East. In a hospital setting or in any health care setting for that matter,
nurses are the integral part of the health care team. They SHOULD work side by side with the
doctors and other disciplines. But this is not the case! From what I have witnessed, the nurses are
being treated as though they belong to the bottom level of the health care ladder. We have been
called names, treated poorly by everyone- from patients to the doctors. We were accused of
being careless and insensitive to the patients’ needs. Our flaws have been magnified to gigantic
degrees, but our virtues have been scoffed upon and belittled. We nurses have earned our
degrees, worked hard for our diplomas, so please do NOT call us stupid. We may have
committed some mistakes, but we are humans. We are sleep-deprived humans who usually work
with empty stomachs, full bladders, aching legs, and fully dependent on caffeine to function
effectively. We are just humans and not machines. We get tired and we get sick.

Some people have callously accused us that we took up nursing for the money. I beg to disagree.
Nursing, although it provides a steady income, requires more than the drive to earn money. It
requires the dedication, patience and sacrifice. Being a nurse means missing out on family
occasions and festivities. It means spending more time at the hospital than at home. If we were in
it for the money, we would have looked for better paying jobs that doesn’t require us to give up
our precious time with our family. So please, stop telling us that money is all it takes to make us
do our jobs better.

Sara Moss-Wolfe said that: "Nurses are the few blessings of being ill." I wish someone would
recognize this. I still love my job and I still harbor the hope that some day we will be treated
better. We are the patients' advocate, but who is ours?
i'm not hypocritical enough to claim that caring for the sick is enough
payment for all the sacrifices i've given. i DO want to be well
compensated, there's nothing wrong with that. all i'm saying is that
money is not the driving force behind my passion for work. it is not the
reason why i work hard and try to give the best care. but this is how some
patients and doctors see us. they think that because we get more salary
than other professionals, that money is all that matters for us. they don't
think that we really care about the patients'welfare at all. a patient once
told me that all i'm after is his money. i proved him otherwise. and i'm
proud to say that before he died, he took back all the rude words he said.
when everyone left him, even his children, it was the same nurse who took
care of him and looked after him, and made him comfortable i hisdeath
bed when the doctors callously said: "he hd a long life, it is enough." his
last words were, "thank God for Filipino nurses." i think that is more
valuable than money.

2 nurses suspended for 'intentional patient harm'

By the CNN Wire Staff

July 15, 2010 -- Updated 1548 GMT (2348 HKT)

(CNN) -- The Nevada State Board of Nursing has suspended the licenses of two nurses named
by police in a criminal investigation of "disrupted" catheter lines at a hospital neonatal intensive
care unit, the board's executive director said Wednesday.
The two nurses, identified in board documents as Jessica May Rice and Sharon Ochoa-Reyes,
have not been arrested or charged with a crime, but the nursing board found that the results of the
ongoing police investigation warranted the license suspensions.
Nursing board director Debra Scott said that Rice, a nurse for four years, and Ochoa-Reyes, a
nurse for 19 years, worked at Las Vegas' Sunrise Hospital, where hospital officials and police
had been investigating several incidents in which catheters had been "disrupted."
The incidents involved peripherally inserted central catheters, or PICC lines, Sunrise Hospital
said in a statement last week. The specialized catheters provide long-term access to a vein and
are used to provide nutrition, give medication or draw blood, the statement said.
The hospital launched an internal review in February, concentrating on "product performance
and staff education," the statement said, and no disruptions were reported for several weeks.
After another one occurred, the hospital retained a plastics engineer with an independent lab to
evaluate the lines. The facility then discovered that another kind of catheter, an umbilical arterial
catheter, also had been disrupted. Such catheters have a low failure rate, the hospital said.
Hospital officials increased security and installed cameras as part of their review. They also
contacted Las Vegas Metropolitan Police and regulatory agencies, including the Nevada State
Board of Nursing and the state Department of Health and Human Services.
There were two "unexpected outcomes" involving the infant patients at the unit, the hospital
statement said.
"One patient required an additional procedure and is currently doing well," the statement said.
"The second patient remains in critical condition in the neonatal intensive care unit."
Law enforcement officials notified the nursing board last month that Ochoa-Reyes and Rice were
part of their investigation into the problems at Sunrise, Scott said. The board took quick action to
suspend the women's licenses.
According to the legal summary suspension of license documents, police found that the Sunrise
incidents involved "intentional patient harm."
The documents for each nurse say the board found in both cases that the nurse violated the
Nevada Nurse Practice Act, with those violations including engaging "in conduct likely to
deceive, defraud or endanger a patient or the general public."
The board found that it "would be a danger to the public health, safety or welfare" for the nurses
to have unrestricted licenses and that suspension of the licenses required emergency action.
Accordingly, the board suspended the licenses.
Attempts to reach Ochoa-Reyes and Rice Wednesday evening were unsuccessful.
In all, 14 catheters were "disrupted" at the neonatal intensive care unit, the hospital said.
A hospital spokeswoman would not provide further comment Wednesday. Police were referring
questions to the hospital.
Some nurses paid more than family doctors
By Parija Kavilanz, senior writerMarch 23, 2010: 12:39 PM ET
NEW YORK ( -- Despite the growing shortage of family doctors in the United
States, medical centers last year offered higher salaries and incentives to specialist nurses than to
primary care doctors, according to an annual survey of physicians' salaries.
Primary care doctors were offered an average base salary of $173,000 in 2009 compared to an
average base salary of $189,000 offered to certified nurse anesthetists, or CRNAs, according to
the latest numbers from Merritt Hawkins & Associates, a physician recruiting and consulting
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And the firm's projections for 2010 indicate that the average base salary for family physicians
will be about $178,000 compared to $186,000 for CRNAs.
CRNAs are advanced practice nurses who administer anesthesia to patients. An important
distinction between CRNAs and anesthesiologists is that when anesthesia is administered by a
nurse anesthetist, it is still recognized as the practice of nursing rather than a practice of
"It's the fourth year in a row that CRNAs were recruited at a higher pay than a family doctor,"
said Kurt Mosley, staffing expert with Merritt Hawkins & Associates.
CRNA salaries have trended higher as the number of surgical procedures picked up pace over the
past few years, fueling demand for anesthesiologists and anesthetists. Anesthesiologists' average
salary is $344,000, according to Merritt Hawkins.
0:00 /3:17Doctors opt out of Medicare

Mosley said medical doctors and specialists, including anesthesiologists, typically have four to
five years more of medical training than CRNAs. After spending a lot of time speaking with
physicians around the country, he said many family doctors are starting to feel like "second-class
This type of income disparity "won't make them feel better," he said. Most primary care doctors
say they're already struggling to make ends meet as their costs rise faster than what Medicare and
private insurers are paying them .
Looking at these compensation trends, the biggest concern for the nation's health care system is
how to encourage more medical students to pick primary care as their specialty at a time when
the nation is already facing a shortage of about 60,000 primary care doctors.
"The demand for primary care doctors will increase twofold when health reform happens and
millions of more Americans have access to health care," said Mosley. "Who is going to triage
these patients? It's not the neurologist or pulmonologist. It has to be the primary care doctor."
The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), in comments subsequent to the
original publication of this story, disputed the Merritt Hawkins figures. The group says the
average nurse anesthetist salary is closer to $158,000, based on its own data collected from
10,000 of its 40,000 members.
"The Merritt Hawkins estimate is inflated because often when hospitals reach the point where
they're willing to hire a recruiting firm, they've exhausted all other means to fill a position," said
Lisa Thiemann, senior director of professional practice for the AANA and a CRNA for 14 years.
The association also said comparing its members to family practice physicians is not appropriate,
since they provide different services, and that a fairer comparison is to anesthesiologists, who
make much more.
"We deliver anesthesia to our patients and keep them safe and comfortable during surgery, and
working with or without anesthesiologists we enable hospitals to keep their ORs functioning
smoothly," Thiemann said. "From our perspective, we are fairly compensated for the level of
responsibility we shoulder."

This article has missed the WHOLE POINT. The problem is the lack of reimbursement
for primary care, not that a few outlier advanced practice nurses with graduate and
doctoral degrees are being compensated for specialty care.

As a nurse practitioner I provide primary care (the same services as a family

physician) to all economic segments of society, increasing access, and am
compensated FAR LESS than a family physician. Is that equitable, when I am
providing the same service? CRNAs (nurse anesthetists) are compensated FAR LESS
than an anesthesiologist for similar care.

So the problem is really that the medical system has decided that primary care, the
kind of care that everyone requires for asthma, high blood pressure, sore throats,
etc., is not as valuable as specialty and high tech care.

have been accepted to the Pre-Nursing program this fall. I hope to pursue a CRNA
after I obtain the BSN. Quick question though for all before me; in regards to the
payscale between a CRNA and a anesthesiologist, don't the one's who hold the MD
make a much higher, significant amount ($300k+) compared to the ~$170k CRNA
simply because the MD holds a higher degree and studied the practice
(pathophysiology, pharmacology, etc.) more? I don't exactly see the argument.
I would say this is more directed to Apna and Matt Stewart after reading the intense
debate on previous posts.
Nurse accused of reusing equipment; patients warned
• Story Highlights
• Over 1,800 patients received notification that could've been exposed to
• Hospital said the nurse admitted to reusing disposable IV equipment
• Notified patients are being urged to get tested for hepatitis B and C, HIV
October 8, 2009 -- Updated 1405 GMT (2205 HKT)
• Next Article in Health »

By Rich Phillips
CNN Senior Producer

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida (CNN) -- A Fort Lauderdale nurse has resigned and more than
1,800 patients have been notified that they may have been exposed to diseases such as HIV and
hepatitis, after the nurse allegedly admitted to the hospital that she used disposable IV equipment
on multiple patients, a violation of safety standards.
Reuse of disposable equipment violates "universal, standard" safety policy, a hospital official

Fort Lauderdale Police are investigating to determine whether any crimes were committed after
an anonymous caller reported seeing the nurse use the same saline bag and a portion of tubing
more than once, during adult cardiac chemical stress tests.
The hospital, Broward General Medical Center, said that a review of the nurse was conducted
when administering intravenous fluids during the stress tests and that she was suspended pending
the outcome of a full investigation. The nurse subsequently resigned, according to the hospital.
Police have identified the nurse as Qui Lan of Fort Lauderdale.
On Friday, an attorney for Lan told CNN: "Ms. Qui Lan has been a registered nurse for over 37
years providing excellent medical care to all of her patients. She has an excellent reputation in
the medical community due to her professionalism and ethical manner. We are confident that
once the facts surrounding this incident are revealed, Ms. Qui Lan will continue to be seen in the
same light."
"She's not a suspect," said police Sgt. Frank Sousa. "We don't have a crime at this point....If any
victims come forward, we're going to investigate." Police have not released an incident report.
"It's heartbreaking to every employee here," said Cathy Meyer, a spokeswoman for Broward
General Medical Center.
"She was aware that she was doing this. It's no different than changing a sheet, or a BandAid.
This is what nurses go into nursing school for," Meyer said.
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"It's a violation of standard nursing infection control procedures," she said. "It's a universal,
standard policy which was violated."
The hospital says a review of medical files from the nurse's date of employment, January 2004,
until today identified 1,851 patients to whom the nurse administered cardiac chemical tests.
These patients are being urged to get tested for the hepatitis B and C virus, and HIV.
Alice Taylor, the hospital's chief operating officer, said the nurse admitted to a hospital
investigator that she should have used new equipment for each patient. When asked why she
didn't, the nurse did not respond, Taylor said, through a spokesperson.
"She admitted to inconsistencies in replacing the saline bag," Taylor said.
A cardiac chemical stress test is designed for people who cannot tolerate a traditional stress test,
which involves walking on a treadmill with electrodes attached to their body.
So, the chemical test is performed, using specific medicines that increase the heart beat as if the
person were exercising. It was during this intravenous process that saline bags and tubing were
allegedly used more than once, according to the anonymous individual. The hospital believes the
risk of exposure is low but said it's important for patients to be tested and will pay all necessary
"This is an individual's unacceptable practice that once discovered was immediately corrected,"
said James Thaw, CEO of Broward General Medical Center, in a written statement.
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As of Tuesday morning, the hospital had already received more than 600 calls and had counseled
30 people inside the hospital.
"It's prudent for our hospital to go into an investigation and notify every patient. We took a
conservative approach," said Meyer, the hospital spokesperson.
But whether the nurse's actions result in criminal charges remains to be seen. The police have
sealed the incident report and have not yet interviewed the nurse. "We are investigating to see
whether or not there was a crime that was committed," said Sgt. Frank Sousa of the Fort
Lauderdale Police Department.
In the meantime, a 24-hour patient hotline has been established. The hospital asks concerned
patients to call 800-545-5716, or go to their Web site at
Nurses and Doctors behaving badly.
• Posted by RNrounds on November 3, 2009 at 7:44pm

SOURCE American College of Physician Executives

Carrie Johnson, ACPE Director of Public Relations,,


Screaming matches in front of bewildered patients. Angry surgeons hurling

instruments across the operating room.
Treachery and backstabbing as physicians and nurses try to undermine one

It may sound like a script from a television medical drama, but these kinds of
scenarios are occurring frequently in hospitals and health care systems across
the country, according to a new survey conducted by the American College of
Physician Executives. The survey of more than 2,100 physicians and nurses
found examples of bad behavior are common in the health care field.

Many also wrote in with personal stories of behavior they witnessed:

-- A physician groping a radiology tech as she attempted to take an

-- A nurse who spread false rumors about a new doctor in hopes of getting
him fired or disciplined.
-- A surgeon growing so enraged with a nurse that he stuffed her
into a trash can.

-- Another physician telling a nurse, "You don't look dumber than my dog.
Why can't you at least fetch what I need?"
According to the participants, the fundamental lack of respect between doctors
and nurses is a problem that affects staff morale, patient safety and public
perception of the industry.

Nearly 98 percent of survey participants reported behavior problems between

doctors and nurses at their organizations. The most common complaint was
degrading comments and insults, which nearly 85 percent of participants said
they had experienced at their organization. Other typical complaints included
yelling, cursing, inappropriate joking and refusing to work with one another.

The problem is not new. In fact, it is so widespread that The Joint Commission
issued a statement requiring health care facilities to adopt zero tolerance
policies for disruptive physician behavior by January 1, 2009. But the ACPE
survey illustrates just how pervasive the behavior is.

Survey participants and experts in behavior also offered suggestions about the
best ways to address the issue, from improved training for medical and nursing
students to strict policy guidelines that carry real consequences.

The survey and related articles are being published in the November\December
issue of ACPE's journal of medical management, "The Physician Executive."