I’ve been approached by complete strangers, classmates, coworkers, and distant family friends all asking how nursing was going. While it appears to be a harmless question, the problem was that I was not actually a nurse nor was I planning to be one. I was happy in a different field that I had chosen for myself, but I was frustrated feeling that I should have chosen a different profession due to the stereotype: “If you’re a Filipino then you’re a nurse.”
It was in the 1960's when thousands of Filipino nurses migrated to the United States due to two factors: "The main push factor is the poor Philippine economy where an average RN earns only about 5% of what an RN is paid in the US. The main pull factor is the nursing shortage in the US." This historical trend created a stereotype for many Filipino-American Millennials, encouraging them to follow the path of being a nurse because it's known to be the Filipino profession.
However, Filipinos are not confined to one profession; nursing is neither a passed down vocation that our ancestors did before us nor is it in the family genes. I know Filipino-American Millennials who are successful in the worlds of business, marketing, and fashion, or instead found a passion for teaching, writing, acting or singing. There are others who became engineers, politicians, or scientists and those who had a different calling in the medical field as physicians, physical therapists or pharmacists.
Also, the stereotype “If you’re a Filipino then you’re a nurse” degrades every Filipino who works hard to become one. The Filipino-American Millennials who are nurses now didn’t choose the nursing field because of their ethnicity. Nursing is a profession that involves much more than "being Filipino"; it involves saving lives and taking care of others. They chose to be a nurse because they found passion in that career.
Being Filipino and the nursing profession does not explicitly go hand in hand. These are two separate entities and two independent identities. To all the Filipino-American Millennials who believe that their future is ambiguous because of a stereotype, don’t let that stop you from choosing the field which is right for you. Filipinos are comprised of different individuals who have different dreams and hopes for the future. We should not be confined to one thing or, in this case, one career.
To the classmate in my senior core not-nursing class, this is an incredibly awkward situation as you ask me, “Every Filipino person I know is a nurse, how come you’re not a nurse?” My answer to you is that my ethnicity has nothing to do with my career and my career has nothing to do with my ethnicity.
To the stranger who was taken care of by a Filipino nurse at your previous hospital visits, you've randomly come up to me asking what to do about the infection on your finger. However, my knowledge of anything medical is learned from "Scrubs," "House" and "Grey’s Anatomy," so my best advice is to not ask me.
Yes, I’m Filipino, but no, it doesn’t mean I’m a nurse. I hope you can understand that nursing isn’t for every Filipino-American Millennial out there, especially not for me.