MANILA, Philippines-While hundreds of nurses migrate in search of greener pastures abroad, Elijah Legaspi, the topnotcher of the November 2014 Nursing Licensure Exam, has chosen to work in government-run hospitals where care is needed most.
Legaspi, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) in April 2014, ranked highest of the 15,292 examinees, with a rating of 86.80 per cent.
The exam results, which were released last Friday night, could easily translate to lucrative job offers for the 21-year-old.
But having witnessed firsthand the state of public hospitals during his internship, he vowed to find work in one of them.
"I graduated from a state university, and I was posted in government hospitals for my internship.
While there, I saw that these hospitals really need nurses and carers.
That motivated me to work for government hospitals, so that I could pay back through my service the resources people gave to me as a government scholar," Legaspi told the Inquirer.
Legaspi, who had long wanted to become a doctor, took up nursing as a premedicine degree.
"My father, an overseas contract worker, has already suffered a heart attack and he underwent an angioplasty," he said. "My mother, a public high school teacher, has diabetes.
So I realised that they would need my care as well."
Being a resident of Sampaloc in Manila, he qualified as a full scholar at the PLM, which is run by the Manila city government and subsidizes the tuition of deserving Manila residents.
While he describes his family as neither rich nor poor, Legaspi said he had his education at PLM to thank for his passion to serve, especially the poor.
"It was while studying there that I became exposed to the community and the various city-run public hospitals.
PLM really taught us to reach out to the underprivileged.
I took my internship at the Ospital ng Maynila and Ospital ng Sampaloc, and it was there that I learned to value what I have right now," he said.
PLM is known as a school performs consistently well in licensure exams.
It ranked as the second-best performing school in the November 2014 Nursing Licensure Exam, with 105 of 103 examinees passing the test-a 98.1 per cent passing rate.
"The batches who graduated before us kept pressuring us to get a 100-per cent passing rate, and for somebody to get into the top 10 board passers," he said. "But my preparations were far from perfect.
I did not finish a lot of readings assigned to us during the review, though I took the mock tests seriously."
Despite the pressure, Legaspi pushed on with the review sessions, taking them a day at a time.
He said the test was neither easy nor difficult "if you took the time to understand the questions."
"Come Friday night, everybody was congratulating me.
I was surprised to see myself as the top-ranked examinee. I just felt so happy and blessed," he said.
PLM president Leonora de Jesus said the university has "always done well in licensure exams."
Legaspi will pay a courtesy call on De Jesus on Monday.
"This is a testament to, first, the quality of students that we have and the good academic standing they have; and second, the perseverance of our students.
We have many poor students who really want to excel and succeed in their studies," De Jesus told the Inquirer.