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Anna    A salute to the best
Every family usually has at least one, if not, it’s then almost likely to know more than one. In their multi-coloured scrubs (or lab gowns) and friendly smiles on their faces, Filipino health care workers probably outnumber any other ethnicity in our health care system.

Health care workers 
Whether they were the newcomers or the old-timers, you can see them at every health care facility. They are usually in groups enjoying their lunch breaks, sharing baon and the latest stories of their lives, or by themselves travelling down hallways and giving out that familiar Pinoy nod of acknowledgement. Whichever way I encounter them, it gives me that feeling of warmth and belongingness, that feeling that I can call them tita or tito, even if they are complete strangers.

I may have a bias here. I am a nursing student, and I come into contact with our kababayans who work at the city’s hospitals as part of my clinical rotation. I have also encountered many health care workers in the community setting – home care personnel to be exact – as some close friends and classmates are employed as in the that field.

However, even before I decided to study nursing, I had always had respect for our kababayans in the health care field. As I was growing up in the Philippines, I saw Filipino nurses and health care workers portrayed as the epitome of not only providers of excellent care to foreign patients, but as breadwinners; working hard to support their families even from miles and miles away. Back then I thought it was just a preconceived notion due to the fact that most who leave the Philippines to work abroad were health care workers. However, now that I am in Winnipeg, I see the depth of what these kababayans among us really stand for.

Filipino health care workers (health care aides, support staff, unit assistants), professionals (nurses, OTs, PTs, doctors) and students (rehabilitation studies, medicine and nursing) have been integral in bringing quality health service to the people of Winnipeg, regardless of race, gender, age, or social status. I can say that there is rarely a hospital unit or personal care home without a Filipino staff member. We have everyone from the novice trainees and young practicum students to the expert and more senior managers and department heads, as proof that we have come a long way in establishing our reputation in our ability to cure and care.

During conversations with a few non-Filipino nurses, I casually asked what they think about our dominance in the health care field. The replies revolve around the same themes: reliability, industriousness, honesty, and warmth. Pinoys are very cautious about attendance, and are willing to work those long, awkward hours, whether scheduled or on-call. Our kasipagan, they say, is outstanding – going above and beyond our call of duty numerous times, especially with the hallway medicine that our province has. Finally, Filipinos seem to have that extra “TLC” that patients and clients feel when they are under their care. We treat patients as if they are members of our family, and do so with sincerity and honesty.

The Filipinos’ contribution to the health care field is something that I am very proud of not only as a nursing student but as a part of the general public. I have even greater pride when I see younger Filipinos – my generation – continue the legacy that our elders started as we give not only the best care but a fresh perspective on the health system. But the best of all is seeing both generations work together and see the “turnover” of this greatness for which we are known.

To all my fellow kababayans in the health care field – both the young and the experienced – I salute you.

Anna Lacanilao was a nursing student at the University of Manitoba when this article was published. She is now a Registered Nurse working at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg.

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