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In the realm of healthcare, the Philippines boasts a legacy of skilled nurses renowned for their dedication and compassionate care. It started in the 1950s when many Filipino nursing students and graduates began moving abroad to upskill and pursue advanced training. Eventually, the next decade saw North American and Middle Eastern countries actively recruiting Filipino nurses — a testament to the good work done by the earlier batches of nurses who established themselves as dependable and talented health workers in their workplaces. This trend that persists to this day has left the Philippine healthcare industry in peril as it faces a shortage of qualified healthcare professionals.  

Image by benzoix on Freepik 

Elevating Nurse Salaries in the Philippines: The Role of the Healthcare BPO Industry 

Interestingly, this practice stems from the hiring countries’ own shortage woes. To fill the gaps in their workforce, many rich countries turn to developing nations such as The Philippines to sustain their healthcare systems.  

As the Philippines became a business process outsourcing powerhouse at the turn of the new millennium, the healthcare BPO industry slowly emerged as a promising alternative for Filipino nurses to earn well and hone their skills without leaving their homes.  

In this article, we will look at the current situation of nursing salaries in the Philippines. Likewise, it will also explore how the  BPO industry helps keep nursing talent in the country and stave off brain drain. 

A closer look at nursing salaries in the Philippines 

The Philippine government has been making efforts to raise the salaries of nurses in recent years. In 2019, the Salary Standardization Law (SSL) was passed, which increased the salaries of government employees, including nurses. Beginning in 2023 under the SSL, the minimum monthly salary for nurses in the government was raised to ₱36,619 or US$645 

Rank Minimum Pay and Salary Grade (SG) 
Nurse I 36,619 (SG 15) 
Nurse II 39,672 (SG 16) 
Nurse III 43,030 (SG 17) 
Nurse IV 51,357 (SG 19) 
Nurse V 57,347 (SG 20) 
Nurse VI 71,511 (SG 22) 
Nurse VII 90,078 (SG 24) 

The law doesn’t cover the salaries of nurses working in private hospitals which account for 60% of the country’s healthcare system. However, there are several pending bills in the House of Representatives and Senate aiming to raise the minimum wage of nurses to  ₱50,000 – ₱64,000 (US$881 – US$1127). 

Low salaries and the nursing exodus 

Nurses in the Philippines working in healthcare facilities often receive low salaries that fall below global standards. Within Southeast Asia, Filipino nurses receive the lowest wages compared to their counterparts from neighboring countries. To illustrate, it’s not unusual to hear of local nurses earning ₱700 or just US$12 a day. Amidst an economy that’s currently experiencing its highest inflation in recent years, IBON Foundation, a local think tank, estimates that a household living in the National Capital Region must be earning at least  ₱1,163 or US$20.55 a day to meet their basic needs. 

This has driven many Filipino nurses to seek employment abroad where they can earn competitive and livable wages — just like the many nurses who made the same journeys before them. 

In a report by ABS-CBN News, research has shown that the deployment of nurses abroad has grown in recent years. In particular, from 2015 to 2019, the number of nurses deployed abroad greatly exceeded the number of newly licensed nurses during the same period. 

Impact on the Philippine healthcare industry 

The nursing exodus has led to a shortage of qualified healthcare professionals and puts a strain on healthcare services and patient care. Specifically, hospitals that don’t meet the mandated nurse-to-patient ratio because of staff shortage may have their licenses revoked. 

To meet the demands of the healthcare sector, the Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Teodoro Herbosa has said that the Philippines needs to fill 4,500 nursing vacancies. In response, government agencies like the Commission of Higher Education (CHED) and DOH have made moves to address the crisis.  

In March 2023, CHED Chair Prospero de Vera announced the agency’s intention to establish memoranda of agreement between private sector entities and higher education institutions. The goal is to enable the direct employment of nursing graduates with “exit credentials” in healthcare facilities. The program aims to permit individuals who have finished one to three years of nursing studies to enter the profession and enhance the healthcare workforce.   

Herbosa, meanwhile, proposes the hiring of unlicensed nursing graduates as nursing assistants to fill the gaps and give them additional training while waiting to take their exams — seen by many as an unpopular move as critics call it a band-aid solution with a few questioning the capabilities of the unlicensed grads in the field. 

It’s interesting to note that the Philippine government continues to engage in partnerships with Western nations such as Germany in the training and recruitment of Filipino nurses for work abroad. 

Government initiatives to address low nurse salaries 

In addition to the SSL, the Philippine government has also passed a number of other laws and regulations aimed at improving the working conditions and benefits of nurses. These include the following: 

  • The Magna Carta for Public Health Workers, which provides for a number of benefits for public health workers, including nurses, such as hazard pay, overtime pay, and maternity leave. 
  • The Philippine Nurses Act, which regulates the practice of nursing in the Philippines and establishes a number of standards for nurses, such as educational requirements and continuing education requirements. 
  • The Nursing Licensure Examination Law, which governs the licensure examination for nurses in the Philippines. 

The Philippine government has also been providing financial assistance to nurses who are studying or who are working in rural areas. This assistance can take the form of scholarships, grants, and loans. 

Healthcare BPO: An alternative path to higher nurse salaries in the Philippines 

While the best-case scenario for the Philippine healthcare industry is for Filipino nurses to stay and work in the country to fill the vacancies in the system, there are many factors why hospitals — specifically the private ones — may not be able to afford to give their nursing staff salaries on par with nurses in public hospitals. 

Thankfully, there are alternative paths that both licensed and unlicensed nurses can take that won’t require them to leave the Philippines. 

The BPO industry is now emerging as an attractive career destination for Filipino nurses. At the moment, plenty of BPO companies offer competitive salary packages and utilize nursing skills in telehealth and medical support roles.  

Healthcare information management services (HIMS) is a broad area within the BPO industry that focuses on the health and life sciences sectors. It is a growing segment of the industry as many global healthcare organizations have turned to outsourcing as a cost-effective measure while improving efficiency and customer service. 

Healthcare workers looking to join the BPO industry can expect a wide variety of tasks that allow them to get paid double or even triple what they are earning from local private hospitals. 

Aside from providing assistance for home care where call center representatives respond to patient inquiries, HIMS workers also take on roles such as transcribing medical records, managing medical documentation, coding and handling bills, offering medical support, representing medical products, and even serving as virtual nurses.  

The preference for Filipino nurses in these roles stems not only from their education in Western medicine and proficiency in English but also for their excellent communication skills. Having a nursing license is also not a requirement but it can help any applicant score better paying roles.  
In fact, based on job posts found on the job portals Indeed and JobStreet, a lot of roles in the HIMS sector start at a monthly rate of ₱20,000 (US$353) and may go up to ₱100,000 (US$1766.00) — a far cry from private or even some public hospitals’ compensation packages. Additionally, BPO companies often give benefits such as sign-on bonuses and healthcare coverage (HMO) for the employees as well as their dependents. 

The healthcare BPO solution: Elevating nurse salaries 

The healthcare BPO industry provides an alternative pathway for career advancement and allows nurses to earn competitive wages without leaving their homeland. By considering the value of hiring Filipino nurses, the outsourcing industry can help to retain skilled nursing talent within the Philippines. 


While the government has taken significant steps to raise wages for nurses, the healthcare BPO industry has emerged as a beacon of hope for Filipino nurses seeking improved compensation and career opportunities without the need to leave their homeland. 

The stark contrast between the salaries offered by the local healthcare sector and the wages offered by the BPO industry highlights the importance of exploring alternative pathways for career growth. The BPO sector not only provides higher salaries but also harnesses nursing skills in innovative ways, such as in healthcare information management services. This segment not only helps global healthcare organizations streamline their operations but also empowers Filipino nurses to play pivotal roles in telehealth, medical documentation, and medical support, among others. 

In embracing the healthcare BPO industry as a viable career path, nurses can remain in the Philippines, contributing to the nation’s healthcare system and mitigating the dire consequences of brain drain. This solution not only ensures the retention of skilled nursing professionals but also bolsters the overall healthcare infrastructure. As the Philippines navigates the complex landscape of nurse salaries and healthcare staffing, the partnership between the healthcare BPO industry and nursing talent presents a promising future, characterized by growth, sustainability, and improved patient care. 


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