Las Vegas resident Johanna Ilagan grew up in a baryo with ample rustic charm called San Antonio, located in Batangas, a beautiful city south of Manila.
Like many Pinoys raised in the Philippines before the computer age and the OFW boom, Johanna started getting a strong work ethic as soon as she entered elementary school. It's not at all forced child labor, she says, but just her own desire to help her family even in a small way and also to spend time with her like-minded friends. During summers, like many girls and boys her age, she raised money to buy school supplies for the coming schoolyear by sewing pawid leaves, materials that were used to build nipa huts. She treasures this experience because it taught her the value of hard work.
In college, she found a way to connect her homegrown diligence with her passion: by becoming a nurse.
"I love being a nurse because I am able to help people on a daily basis," she says. Currently, she works as a surgical ICU nurse at the Valley Hospital in Las Vegas.
From a proactive small girl in a small town to owning a house in and living in one of the biggest cities in the world, Johanna has come a long way. Here are her vital signs:
How she got into nursing
"I studied nursing at EAC Manila. I worked first at Medical Center Manila, then after a few years, I was hired for my first job abroad, in a Middle East hospital. In 2000, I took my NCLEX and that's when I moved to the U.S.," she says. She is now a member of several nursing organizations: American Association of Critical Care Nurses, Philippine Nurses Association, and she is licensed to practice in Nevada, California and Connecticut.
It is common knowledge that nursing is one of the most lucrative fields in the country. "I think the salary for RNs is about 25 thousand to 50 thousand a year, depending on experience. Plus OT and weekend and night differentials," Johanna says. She adds that whatever state you want to live in, you'll find a job easily if you have good work record.
"I work 3 days a week on a 12-hour shift. I take care of surgical patients and critical cases. When I get in, first I take the reports from the outgoing nurse, do bedside care, assess the patient, check doctor's orders... Then I take care of the patient's needs, kung kailangang paliguan, kung may kailangang gamot, kung nakakahinga ba siya ng maayos. I take care of about 1 to 4 patients a day."
"My job provides financial stability but the greatest achievement that I get out of it is when a patient's condition improves."
Most Difficult Job Aspect
"Kapag namatayan ako ng pasyente, kahit 17 years na akong nurse, naapektuhan pa rin ako. But you have to be tough."
Her Advice To Prospective Nurses
1. "Be true to yourself. Don't get into it just for the money. I've said before that nursing is like pagma-madre - it's a vocation. You have to really care for others. Pag nagkamali ka, buhay ang nakataya."
2. "You should never stop learning. I always attend conferences and seminars."
3. "Strive hard. When I first came here, I worked in the East Coast. First time kong tumira sa Amerika, sa napakalamig na lugar pa. Tapos nag-re-review pa ako and also working at the same time. It's not easy, but it's doable."
[PINAY/PINOY AT WORK is FilipinOnline's new column featuring one of R.P.'s most admired exports: working Pinoys. If you have an interesting job and you'd like to be considered to be featured here, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.]