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Foreign nursing students get second chance

Chunichi Shimbun

A private hospital group in Nagoya is supporting youths from Indonesia who went through three-year training stints in Japan to become licensed nurses but who had no choice but to return to their home country after failing to pass the state certification exam here.

For this year’s certification exam, held Feb. 16, the Kaikokai group, which runs Nagoya Kyoritsu Hospital in Nakagawa Ward, sponsored challenges by six such youths to take the exam for the second time.

The five women and one man originally came to Japan to undergo training at hospitals between 2008 and 2010 after the Japanese government signed bilateral economic partnership agreements with Indonesia and the Philippines in the late 2000s, opening doors to nurses and caregivers from the two countries.

Despite the trade agreements, few foreign nurses so far have been allowed to work in Japan, mostly because of the language barrier. The foreign nurses must pass the Japanese certification exam, given only in Japanese.

While the overall rate of success for the certification exam for nurses is around 90 percent, only 10 percent or so of EPA-tied applicants have passed it. And the way the current agreements are set up, the applicants must return home soon after failing the exam once, as their visa is only good for three years. There is little public support for them to come back and take the exam again.

Since last fall, the five women and one man have gone through professional training in Jakarta, where the hospital group is trying to open a clinic.

They then came to Japan in early February and studied intensively for the Feb. 16 exam with help from experts at Kyoritsu Hospital. The hospital group paid for their air tickets and living expenses during the program.

“I think it would have been very difficult for me to try again by myself,” said Johan Hariant, the only male member of the program this year.

The hospital group started offering assistance to aspiring nurses from Indonesia two years ago after being asked to do so by officials of a Japanese-language school in Jakarta. But of the seven Indonesians the group has helped to re-take the exam, in 2011 and 2012, only one has passed.

“The hurdles for the state exam remain high,” said Kanji Torii, spokesman for the Kaikokai group.

The six are now awaiting the results of the exam, which will be announced in late March. Kaikokai plans to continue giving hopefuls a second chance.

“We need to show a success model first,” Torii said. “If our group manages to produce more people passing the exam, I’m convinced that others will join in to extend their support for” aspiring nurses from Southeast Asia.

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on Feb. 24.