Nursing exam rules for foreigners to be relaxed in response to low pass rate

TOKYO —

The government will ease its rules for the nursing and caregiver qualification exam, giving foreign candidates more time to prepare for the test.

Japan opened the way for non-Japanese people, including Indonesians and Filipinos, to work as nurses and caregivers in 2008, to address the shortage of medical care staff. The system, under which they have on-the-job training while studying, was introduced as part of the Japan-Indonesian Economic Partnership Agreement.

However, studying for the tests while nursing proved difficult for many candidates. According to the health ministry, last year, only 19 out of 700 Indonesian and Filipino applicants passed the exams and were allowed to stay in Japan, Fuji TV reported.

Health Minister Yoko Komiyama said she would not like to see anyone give up their desire to work as a nurse in Japan because of the language barrier.

In order to prevent future applicants from being dissuaded by the language barrier, Komiyama announced that time frames are to be relaxed and hiragana will be printed above the kanji characters on the test paper to help candidates understand the questions.

The ministry also announced that a committee is to monitor candidates and advise on potential changes to the test. The new system is scheduled to come into effect from next year, Fuji reported.

Japan Today

  • 5

    Cricky

    Or make it an attractive job for Japanese job searchers!

  • 6

    mitoguitarman

    Finally, a humane crack appears in the kanji wall.

  • 5

    noriyosan73

    What about the native-born Japanese citizen who went to the USA for a CNA and RN certificates? Can he or she take the same exam? He or she may not know all the terminology in Japanese, but is bilingual in every other way. He or she would be an excellent employee in areas where English speakers resides. Information is appreciated.

  • 0

    gogogo

    @noriyosan73: You must pass the JP exams there is no clean transfer.

  • -2

    Eautaceux Janais

    I just hope it doesn't get too relaxed to the point of compromising patient safety.

  • -1

    NeoJamal

    Why the half-arsed measure? why not abolish the Japanese language altogether and adopt English as the working language of this country?

    whether I'm being sarcastic or serious is up to the read to decide.

  • -3

    NeoJamal

    Why the half-arsed measure? why not abolish the Japanese language altogether and adopt English as the working language of this country?

    whether I'm being sarcastic or serious is up to the reader to decide.

  • 0

    DoLittleBeLate

    I can't possibly agree. Health care workers should have perfect knowledge of the language, since they will be talking to the patients as well as reading doctor's prescriptions when administering medication to them.

    The teaching ability of the Japanese system is notoriously well-known. They should swallow their tatemae pride and learn some modern language training methods from abroad instead. Lowering the bar is a byrocrat's solution. Even the difference between learning a mother tongue and foreign tongue eludes them, it is very sad. "Muri shinakute ii yo, moshi ore ga nihongo wo benkyou shitara..."

  • 4

    smithinjapan

    So in other words they admit the test is meaningless.

  • -1

    Seavey

    Relaxing exam rules is not the same as making an easier test.

  • 6

    noriyosan73

    Is it better to have a medical professional barely understands than a bilingual medical professional who can help thousands of English speakers who do not understand Japanese? Anyone who speaks only English and has had a serious medical problem in Japan knows that it is extremely difficult to find a nurse or doctor who understands a medical problem.

  • 0

    sillygirl

    i actually looked up the requirements in the good ole USofA. tests such as the TOEFL, TOIEC, etc are what are required. then they can take the exam - which i am so sure is not set up as a "money-maker" and have most of the people (even native speakers) fail. to tell the truth, while in NYC i had nurses, doctors from various countries and they were all fine - they had accents, sure, but they knew their stuff as they had passed the exams in their own countries.

  • 0

    smithinjapan

    Seavey: "Relaxing exam rules is not the same as making an easier test."

    They now include Hiragana over the Kanji, making it EASIER to read -- you don't call that making an easier test?

  • 0

    TokyoGas

    A 2.7% pass rate is amazing.

  • 0

    sillygirl

    in the US the pass rate for RN and LP stands at about 45% for those not educated in the US.

  • 0

    Monkeyz

    Most drug names are written in katakana. I don't think there's going to be much confusion there.

    We're talking about people who are giving medicine, taking blood pressure, and turning people over in bed. We aren't talking about brain surgeons--who may need to know all sorts of terminology that laypeople wouldn't know.

    I've stayed in a hospital before. The conversations I had with the nurse were along the lines of, "How are you feeling today? Do you have any pain?" Normal stuff. And they still made mistakes with my meds. Even though there was no language barrier.

    If nurses can do their job adequately, I'm not sure what the problem is. I would rather have a non-native nurse than no nurse at all.

  • 0

    smithinjapan

    Reminds me of tests in general in Japan. When it was announced how badly Osaka did in the nation in terms of test scores Hashimoto demanded schools be held accountable or under his rule they will be closed if the scores continue to be bad. The result? local tests (not the nation-wide, although those have become easier as well) have been made simpler for higher scores, and teachers in some cases 'hint' at what will be on the exams. The end result? higher scores, not actual higher achievement or capabilities.

    This test is not indicative of the quality or ability of a nurse in training, it's the product of business, and as such it doesn't exist to test anything but rote memory and take people's money.

  • 0

    cloa513

    The old rules said something you can try four times to pass the test but first time is straight away and the second time is 6 months into training so what is the rule now? I worked at nursing high school once. Anyone point a link to the old test (not that I could read but my wife could tell if if the kanji was arcane).

  • 0

    bajhista65

    Of course it will be like passing the eye of a needle because of the language barrier. You bet, even Japanese have a hard time reading kanji words. Have someone wondered why Japan has 4 kinds of writeng japanese compared to other nations. Speaking the language is not a barrier for foreigner cuz they could learn very fast. But writing and reading mmmmm it will take many, many moons. If Japan planned to make the exams easier for foreign nurses, print it also on english. And I am sure you will have a 100% passing.

  • -4

    It"S ME

    Agree but what is the use if they could pass with english.

    They still need to read and write reports/read prescriptions/etc in Japanese. The same applies for foreign nurses overseas, they need to know the local lingo to do their job. So the test is not just a skill test but also one that determines if they can work here or not.

  • 0

    Seavey

    They now include Hiragana over the Kanji, making it EASIER to read -- you don't call that making an easier test?

    In a sense, but the not the sense that counts.

    If they made the test oral, it would essentially be the same test of knowledge.

    The only problem is that some kanji ability may be essential for the job. Then again, when it comes up, you can ask other nurses to read the kanji. But you know what? The end analysis is that hands are more essential than kanji. If you don't have the hands to take care of patients, you are basically screwed. If they address that with furigana, its sure better than nothing.

  • -4

    It"S ME

    Seavey.

    Problem is they won't just be deployed in areas like tokyo, etc but also rural areas. And why do the current staff/doctors have to start adding furigana for a foreign nurse. In the end the communication is the key oral and written.

    Ever tried adding sub-titles/translations to your own daily reports, etc?

  • 0

    Johannes Weber

    Something which they miss is that even these arcane Kanji can be picked up quite well in a few years on the job without too much effort if the basic knowledge is available. They should relax the test insofar that those who do not reach the full level but maybe 70-80% of it are kept on probation with continued training, where they can still continue learning the arcane kanji and repeat the test one or two times, before deciding if they fail. They'd get far more competent nurses with such a system.

  • 0

    CaptD

    I bet many of these new non Japanese folks will be hired to work in Fukushima, because the Japanese people will not want to get the radiation exposure their especially since most of these folks will be women...

    I believe that many new foreigners will be hired to work in the North since all the Japanese that can afford not to, will live and or work where it is safer!

  • 0

    missbatten

    The nursing candidates are working under systems similar to other "trainee" systems, where "trainees" are thrown at companies who are allowed to organize their own "training"...or not. If the companies are only looking for cheap labor, they have little incentive to actually train the "trainees", who will no doubt merit a raise if they do actually pass their exams. What's different here is that there are some people who actually want the nurses to pass...the question is, do any of these people want to organize and pay for the training, and can companies who are used to "use 'em and lose 'em" attitudes to foreign trainees actually cope with having their work "interrupted" by training, instead of leaving them to educate themselves in their own time and out of their own pockets.

  • 0

    CaptD

    Very soon computers will be able to provide the translation of what folks are saying in real time, then all this will be a "thing of the past" because with tele-Med someone somewhere else can interact with the patient and then tell the onsite caregiver what needs to be done...

    Why not develop that system now and then use it to help patients ASAP...

  • 0

    Jonathan Prin

    Dog is right.. Japan lacks nurses...

  • 0

    tokyokawasaki

    We will never evolve as a species until we can all communicate in a common language.

    It is about time the UN and leaders of all countries agree to implement a program which teaches English as a second language to all students, throughout their education..

  • 1

    bajhista65

    @ DOG.... hahahaha everything in Japan is business. That's how this organizers earn their extra drinking money.

    It's not only Nursing. Have you investigated how hard to get a driver's licence in Japan? Too many exams. And everytime you failed, you have to take the same exams with a fee of ¥3,000. They make it so hard so you won't pass. hehehehe Where in the world a driver's licence will costs you ¥300,000 more or less. Only in Japan

  • 1

    bajhista65

    @ IT'S ME..... ;) the problem in topic is the exams. Even if they are handicapped with reading Kanji's, they have the ability to ask their fellow workers to be sure if they read it right. They also have their Staff and Head Nurse to ask and verify. But not during the exams right? or they will be charged cheating. SKILLS matters. Student Nurses are required to undergo clinical experienced as students. And that's the most important beside theoretical. Have you been confined or observed how patients take their medications? Take their temperature? I am a Registered Nurse in my country and have practiced Nursing USA as my profession. Doing nursing in Japan is not that hard compared to my country and USA. But anyway, the foreign nurses will be deployed as care givers and home for the aged. So all foreign nurses need is the verbal communication skill. Japan will not deploy them in situations that will jeopardized treatment of their patients.

  • -2

    nigelboy

    It's not a matter that they barely understand Japanese. 50% of Japanese natives who take the nursing exam also fail. It's a matter that they, like the 50% of Japanese failures, haven't rote learned some arcane kanji that they will never encounter again outside of the exam. They haven't learnt it because they haven't paid wads of cash to a private institute that will 'guide' them through the exam.

    It's over 90% passing rate.

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