Esther Simpson (TRANSCRIPT ONLY)

My name is Esther Hippel Simpson. I’m a registered nurse. I work at the veterans medical center.

Take 2: I am esther simpson, and i am a registered nurse, i work at the seattle va medical center.

:48 Where did you receive your nurse training? I received my basic nursing training in the Philippinesippines and it was at st. Paul college of manila and it is for 5 yrs. And i took my masters degree in nursing at the university of the Philippinesipppines.

Was St. Paul a prestigious institution? Yes. St Paul college is a private school, all school girls. It’s a prestigious program for college and they prepare women to be become Paulinian Catholic mothers. And…laughs.

:48 And the university of the Philippinesippines is a coed and it’s the state university of the Philippinesippines and this is where you get exposure to the happenings of the country: activism, different kinds of thinking, and it’s a very dynamic school.

Did st paul produce a lot of nurses? Yes. St Paul College of Manila had an enrollment of 60 in one class and we graduated 40 of these girls after training. It has a record of being top-notchers or the graduates are one of the top ten in the state board exams in the Philippinesppines and this has been going on every yr up to the present.

3:22 it is a well known university and not everybody could go into the…

Take 2: st paul is considered one of the top schools and exclusive schools for girls in the Philippinesippines and not everybody could get into the college. We are screened by mainly our grades when we graduate from high school.

Every yr there is about 30-40 graduates per graduating class. And the philsosophy of the school is to produce catholic women who would become mothers and be mothers to children and teach thme about religion, the greatness of god. It is a religious school, and it is run by St Paul de Chartres nuns.

5:10 what did you do after graduation? What yr did you graduate? After graduation i worked in a gen medical ctr in Manila and it was the Manila medical center and we were pioneers of that center so we were newly graduates and we were the nurses tha tset up the policies, procedures that this new hospital was going to use. And being young graduates, i worked in the surgical unit and it was like 40 patients in one unit. That’s where we started to apply our skills, fresh from school until we were skilled. And i moved on from staff nurse to head nurse and gone through being the administrator of the continuing educcation department for the whole hosp.

I worked there for 5 years, and in the last 3 years, i went to school and finished my masters degree at the university of the Philippines.

What do you remember most about working in Philippines hospital? I remember my classmates. Being young graduates, we tended to be together. We all lived in the dormiotry. We lived with other graduates of diff schools of nursing in the Philippines. I remember the nuns who were so patient in teaching us and challenging us… (pause)

I remember the nuns who were helpful in assisting us in growing in our profession and challenging us to take more roles and responsibilities. And i remember my coworkers who were just starting out like u. It was just a non-stressful workplace. We used to work evening shift, from 3 o’clock to eleven. We’d go bowling afterwards and we’d go nightclubbing. And we arrive at the dormitory at two o’clock and the nuns would just look at us. Because we were already graduates. We would work next day at 3 o’clock again and we were just so contented and satisfied with our lives.

8:55 sounds like a lot of camaraderie?

Oh yes. This camaraderie last a lifetime. In gfact we still see one another, call one another, go for a reunion in the Philippines. Everybody would go. Just this yr, our class had a reunion in Las Vegas. There were 30 of us with some of our husbands. It was so nice to see everbody changed. We remember little incidents in our growing yrs, 5 years at St Paul college.

10:05 When did you come to u-s?

I came to the u-s, 8 months after martial law in the Philippines. I went directly to Chicago because that’s where my aunt and sister was and I lived with them. My adjustment in Chicago was not as hard as Filipinos had because I had my family with me who helped me: distinguish what is broccoli, what is pork butt, or the diff fruit in the grocery or who to call if I needed something. It was part, an extension of my life in the Philippines, with my family, in Chicago.

11:13 I was also with my friends who i used to work with in med. Ctr in Manila. So I went to work in the hospital where they were. So life in manila started to be the same again. We had our parties together, we had picnics, we travelled together. It was a good life.

Had you always intended to move to Chicago? Not really. After my graduation, after a couple yrs at med ctr in manila. I applied to b.c., canada. And i already had a visa to go to canada. But my father had a stroke so i delayed my trip abroad and take care of him. That took me 5 yrs before i finally went to chicago, with his permission. I went to chicago because that’s where my family was.

12:44 it seemed like an easy decision? Yes because my family would be there and they would be helping me because we’re a very close knit family.

Was it always your intention to work overseas? Yest it was, primarily because of the relatives that I have who are in the states. I had always planned to go to America because my relatives who were also nurses migrated to America. It seems to me that nursing is not complete unless you have been to America.

13:56 Why? I felt my prof training was not complete unless I went to America because even when I was working in the Philippines, I had colleagues who were already stateside nurses. And they were just so skillful and so knowledge. They were part of my role models and even though I was hold a very top position in the hosp where I worked my salary was not enough for me to be able to give something to my parents, the salary was just enough for me.

And so i thought about the dollar converted to peso and how i would be able to help my family, my dad, and my younger sisters if i was earning dollars in America.

So you came for econ. Reasons? It is fair to say that one of the reasons i came to the state is economic reasons because i don’t believe that Filipinos would really love to leave their country unless there is something in their country that pushes them out. And it is during the period of 1970s, the peso was not valuable enough to be buy and live comfortably as we would be in the states.

During this period when i left the Philippines, it was a period of martial law and we could see nurses who have just graduated, they don’t get readily jobs so they were working as non nursing jobs in the Philippines. So it was something that people, nurses would actually say, that there were more opportunity in America. The lure of the united states to Filipino nurses is really salary, the dollar sign, and of course, the comforts of living here: owning a car, owning a refrigerator, owning a house and all the comforts that go with it: laundry, washer, and dryer. That’s one of the things we don’t have in the Philippines.

18:07 how about the prestige? Oh yes, the prestige of being a stateside, u-s trained nurse is something like, you’re one notch above any Filipino nurse because you come home very nice uniforms, with very sophisticated stockings and nursing shoes. The way they talk, their confidence because of their training for eg, adds more weight to the treatment of patients, the doctors in the Philippines i think believ the u-s stateside nurses more than the local ones.

More credibilty? Oh yes. And expectation that when you come from the states you are an excellent nurse, an outstanding nurse and you can work as director of nursing, an administrator, as long as you have qualifications educationally. Also the influence to the boards.

19:50 there was a sense of worldliness? I used to u-s trained nurses as more all-sided, more independent in their decision making, they’re using their heads in making decisions, esp in their own lives. Of course this is not the generalization, they’re still individuals, some still plain and humble although capable of doing things. But the people i met who were stateside were just so overly confident of themselves.

There were some nurses who went home from the united states who couldn’t adjust to the livign conditions and the working conditions in the Philippines so they would want to go back to the u-s to work.

Saw this before coming to the u-s. I saw a lot of classmates who were here longer than me who were insturmental in giving me advices and how to proceed professionally, how to take the board exams and how to review and what to do with your salary and save and invest in some future investments.

22:30 so you had support in the Philippines and the u-s? I had a big support, not only from my family and friends but also newly found friends in our community because i didn’t stay put in the hosp; my netowrking has increased. As early as 1976…

23:15 i was already involved in national networking because i was working in the anti-martial movement as a volunteer so i would know more conditions in the Philippines. Other than what we know from the newspapers.

23:50 let’s talk about your first job in the America? My first job was as a staff nurse in roosevelt memorial hosp. Take 2: my first job was as staff nurse in a small hosp, a 300 bed capacity in chicago, and i work in the medical surgical unit. But because of my educ, being a masters degree holder, i was more involved in the continuing ed dept, i was helping out in the orientation of new nurses, demonstration of fire equipment, learning opptys in that hosp.

They train me to become medical nurse assoc which was like a medi nurse practitioner but we were not licensed, we were working under doctors in that hosp. I had exposure in the diff areas of nursing from surgical to icu and ccu.

25:30 was that exp what you had expected? My experience in maerica what i had expected because i was confident that having a masters degree pgm is not going to let me begin from the beginning. I had oppty to use my skills, my cmuy skills right away through the continuing educ of the hosp. And that was my job before i left the Philippines. So there was a recognition of my skills and educ capabilities in the first hosp that i worked.

Did it provide prof growth? Oh definitely. The exp provided prof grwoth because this hosp has sent us to conferences, meetings and that’s how i got myself exposed to the broader American nursing.

What does that mean?

Broader American nursing is nursing by our white counterparts which means i had associations with American nurses association, college of nurse educators and it was niot only Filipinos but also white American nurses.

Did that add to your exp?

Meeting and working with them increased my understanding of how to approach them, how to talk to them, how to interpret what they’re saying, what oppty are available to American nurses and Filipino nurses.

28:30 re narciso-perez case: it started with anti-martial movement in the u.s. when i was in the Philippines i was not very political. I was a graduate of college, just too busy doing my work, masters degree. Univ Philippines gave me an idea of what activisim is. So when i came to America, i rode with my dean of nursing at u-p and she said on the airplane, esther, make the u-s or anywhere you go, like your up campus. It stuck to my mind. I always identified the u-p and its atmosphere, and activism, though i was not directly involved.

So when i was in chicago, i mut some new people who were involved in anti-martial movement, through the meetings my mind got opened up to the other facts and happenings in the Philippines under marcos regime like the violation of human rights, the economy under marcos, how the Philippines and us govt have collaborated in revising in Philippines politics to meet u-s needs.

I understood the impt of the two u-s bases in the Philippines. So that was an eye opener for me. In the course of our educating the community about anti-martial law, i have increased my network. And in the course of working for the political prisoners in the Philippines and their issues, freedom etc, i think i may have developed somewhat into a leader in the anti martial law movement so i was seen as somebody to come to for other issues in the community.

While working in the community, we have met Filipinos who have been discriminated in their jobs, Filipinos who were laid off for no reason at all.

simpson, wave file 2

In the course of our anti martial law work i have evolved as a leader in the anti martial law movement. We also met Filipinos who were discriminated against. They lost their jobs, they were demoted, or they were unemployed. I guess that was a reality to me that Filipinos were having issues as minorities in America. At first i didn’t understand why Filipino engineers would work as draftsmen in America, or dentists working as dental hygenists, or nurses as nurses aides.

I also try to understand they are laid off and not given appropriate process of employment or process of law. With these issues, the word discrimination as a minority, racial discrimination was something that was bugging me because why are Filipinos being treated that way. It is an understanding of how the Filipino community is, its hx and how the elderly Filipinos, the first immigrants, how they were treated. It gave me an understanding of what it is to be racially discriminated.

2:45 being an immigrant community, our community is young and it still has to develop a muscle so that Filipinos need to be educated about their rights, need to know more about the American system as a whole so they can have some say in what’s happening to them in America.

This is where i have actually thought over and over again. It has been proven by the cases, esp the nurses at the va hosp in ann arbor came about in 1975. I did not know these nurses personally, but because they were discriminated and picked as suspects right from the beginning they were Filipinos and the evidence circumstantial, i think this was good issue that we could use, to understand more about discrimination.

5:10 overview of the case: in 1975 there were two Filipino nurses, filipina narciso and leonora perez were accused of murdering 15 patients out of the 65 patients at the va who had respiratory arrest. The investigations from the va from day number one, these nurses were picked right because of their presence during a few of these arrests. But in the course of their trial, it has always been circumstantial. And the way these nurses were treated by the fbi and va adminstration has been rude, and it was not very scientific.

They were accused of 10 counts of poisoning, 5 counts of murder and 1 count conspiracy. One of the nurses, leonora, was 4 months pregnant when they were arrested. And she had a 3 yr old son who saw her handcuffed and it was in front of the tv when these nurses were arrested. And it was so touching for all the Filipinos. This issue has touched a lot of emotions. We couldn’t believe these Filipino nurses could do that because we don’t do that. And we are not capable of doing that, we are good people, we are reliable and honest people.

After seeing this in chicago, i put, we put all the facts together, met with the nurses and we formed a support grp for narciso and perez. And because of the org that i had which is the anti martial law org, and the kdp, the union of democtrac Filipinos, we had chapters all over the u-s. We studied the issue and it was very clear that it was a case of racial and national discrimination.

So we had a lot fo activities. First, educ of the Filipino community. Was very impt from what is this case about and how do we see it, racial and national discrimination. And that to win this cases it would take not only money but also a lot of organizing…

10:00 this case galvanized the community? This case galvanized Filipino community, because it has united diff walks of life, diff political leanings, diff econ status and it’s not only in the Filipino community but we had the white community helped, from the asian pacific, broader American community.

Activities we did was gathering petitions, phone calls, telegrams to the atty gen, rallies diff states, we had letter writing, and we collected money from everybody to help out with the legal fees. These were nurses, since they were accused of murders, they have stopped working.

12:00 when community galvanized did this mean people who were apolitical? Yes. As a result of this issue and our work educ the Filipino community about discrimination and the hx of Filipinos in America and how we can help and empower ourselves to bring about results in the judicial system, people who were just looking at the issue out of sympathy or pity for the nurses and the kid of leonora, or people said it was injustice, etc, it was a growing oppty for everybody who was involved in support work to get exposures of ideas and how this cases was analyzed.

We also had an understanding of what is the role of the fbi and why it was happening during that period of time that the FBI was very diligent in their work during 1977 and it’s because of vietnam war, and the case of Jimmy Hoffa who they wanted some kind of, the FBI could give some answers about the case. So quickly they had to have answers when the oppty of the va murders came so the Filipino community, some accepted this analysis but some remained scared for their rights.

14:40 that was okay, as long as they came and support narciso and perez. That was the rallying point.

But whatever their reason for support, would it be fair to say that they weren’t just sitting on the sidelines but became active supporter? That’s a fair thing to say that from those who were observers and because they were passive because they needed time to analyze the case, most of them, after the educ that support has done, the concrete support they had to show concrete support in terms of one, signing the petition, distributing petitions in their own work place, be part of the network, or they would also give money, or they would org a house meetg, invite their friends, and we would go their to discuss the case.

and at some point it was a trip from chicago to detroit, our supporters went to detroit during the trial to witness the proceedings in court. It was so great to see Filipinos occupying the courtroom. And here was the prosecutor, maybe one ortwo were there. While the trial was going on, and the outside courthouse were massive Filipinos. At the same time we publicized the diff rallies around the u-s. We had chapters in san franciso, oakland, la, texas, houston, missouri, everywhere in the u-s. Seattle had a chapter, and as far as the tree cities in canada: vancouver, toronto, montreal and as far as guam and the Philippines. So it was really massive.

17:50 so after this, when you are poart of the whole movement, eventually the charges were dropped, it contributes to the maturation of the Filipino community, that they can do something as a community if they are org, if there’s leadership that would galvanize the sentiment, and direc the sentiment to something concrete.

That must’ve been quite a time for the community? It was. While at a certain juncture of the case, it was in anticipation of the verdict, and what we did months before the verdict, the reps of the support grps from diff grps in America, including guam, hawaii, they came, we had a natl conference, snowing in detroit, we had the two defendants, and the support grp, planned their strategy of what to do if they were found guilty or if they were dropped.

So were ready when the verdict came in and we had a community celebratoin when the charges were dropped. It was really good. It was a sight to see all these 30,00 petition forms that we rolled and connected to one another like diplomas and it was in the hands of one of the brothers of the defendants and one of our support grp members that we gave to the court. It was a big publicity. All the elements of the vicotry that i see is the org, the educ that came with, cooperation of the lawyers fo the defendants, and summations that goes after that.

We had a newsletter to inform and update everybody. We had our newspaper who reported, we assigned an katipunan to be in detroit, to report to us, and publicity was very impt. And we updated everybody and it was great. We had a big party after that. Up to now we are still in touch with the diff support grp who are leadership in those chapters and also with the families of the defendants.

21:20 was it an eye-opener for the Filipinos? Definitely. The case was an eye-opener because Filipinos don’t believe they would be accused as murderers or made suspect because it’s just intrinsic that filipi nos are hardworking people, we are honest people, we can do no wrong. Most of us are docile. But what is impt is we have to know our rights and what to do in case you’re arrested or what to do, who to go to in case something happens to you.

22:40 what happened then? In 1977, the charges were dropped. At first they were found guilty. After a new atty gen in detroit took over, he dropped the charges against the nurses for reasons that it would take so much money on the part of the govt to prove the case. So they just dropped it.

23:20 the Philippines continues to export labor, including nursing, what are your thoughts on that? Have things have changed for new recruits? As long as the Philippines do not provide oppty or econ conditions for nurse graduates like jobs, more hosp to work in, higher salaries, there will always be a push factor that will bring these nurses to America.

One thing at this time, the u-s has extreme shortage of nurses and they are really having a hard time of filling these positions with u-s trained nurses, they don’t have any alterantive bu tto recruit from diff countries, much as probably not from the Philippines. Let’s face it, the Philippines has the largest exporters of nurses and they are good workers, they’re reliable with good work ethics so it’s a win situation if they come to America.

If they recuirt nurses, the hosp should take care of these nurses because there are requirements for these nurses who are graduates of foreign countires that they should pass the bd exam but it is so tough on Filipino nurses to pass because of the lack of critical thinking and test taking skills that is needed for to pass exams. In the Philippines, what we’re used to is rote memory, multiple questions and essay questions and we pass that.

But when they come to America the test questions are formulated in such as way that multiple choices from double negatives and double positives and answers that are very similar to one another that Filipino nurses have to exercise their thinking skills to discriminate which is the best answers. And something new is doing it with computers and this is something new for Filipino nurses. We used to write them, but here is computer and the time to finish this… so their sight is high but they don’t pass the board exam.

27:15 but in terms of what drives nurses overseas, hasn’t changed, like knowing friends and having network of support? Yes. It hasn’t changed as to where nurses would go. It is fortnate for some nurses who may have family in America where they migrate to, but most of them though would be relatively new to the area because they’re at the mercy of recruiters as to which nursing home or hsop they’d go to. They also have to be careful as to their rights, and terms fo contracts so they won’t be cheated out of their contracts.

28:15 there are recruiters who have taken advantage of Filipino nurses by offering this much money but when they come here there are 8 nurses in one room and they’re not afforded time for review classes and their salary was half of what they told them in the Philippines. So they end up settling for what is offered to them.

29:00 are nurses who work overseas, does it still have same prestige? In Philippines society nurses who are from the states are seen at a higher level than other professions in the Philippines. That hasn’t changed, but pretty it is still, accountants, dentists, and teachers are seen as higher than the nurses because of the day to day, dirty bedpans, cleaning patients, upperclass Filipinos don’t see that as something glorifying. But you can’t be a nurse if you don’t have those qualities, that you want to help others, help the sick and cleaning bedpans is one of those.

So just as it was decades ago, nurses working in the u-s still seen in higher esteem? There’s a change in the character fo those who are taking nursing. Nursing used to be a chosen profession, it belonged to the elite because it cost a lot of money. And students would have to pass through rigourous training to become real nurse. That’s why along the way they don’t make it. So they’re dropped from school. Those who graduate pass through diff testing.

Today i notice there are more girls who come from pooer families, lesser econ means who go into nursing. There’s also a lot of dysfunctional, students from dysfunctional families who go into nursing. It is because nursing at this time is a job that anybody could easily get into, whether they have the capacity or tenaciousness to carry on as a real nurse, the test will be when they’re in the real profession.

33:15 addendum: given the changes we’ve had in nursing and opptys and the difficulty in preparing ourselves as nurses. And sometimes it’s challenging because of the shortage of nurses nowadays, if i were to go back, i think i would still be a nurse.