The Jan. 31 article “Foreigners’ poor test grades force rethink on nurse tests” does raise a dilemma: Should Japan, or should it not, make the nurse certification test easier for foreigners? It may come down to answering the following questions:
(1) Is the lack of proficiency in Japanese really a problem?
Naturally Japanese patients feel more safe if they are cared for by someone who speaks perfect Japanese. But the fact is that, right now in hospitals throughout Japan, there are foreign patients who do not speak much Japanese and who are being cared for by Japanese nurses who, for the most part, speak only Japanese.
Similarly, in hospitals throughout the world, there are Japanese patients who mostly speak Japanese being cared for by nurses who, for most part, speak their native tongue.
Perhaps we could investigate whether the lack of language proficiency prevents these patients from receiving proper care.
(2) How much Japanese does one actually need to know to do the job satisfactorily under the supervision of a Japanese head nurse?
(3) Would the Japanese government be willing to provide language training to selected candidates so that they can achieve the desired level of Japanese proficiency?
I expect that many of the applicants do not have the financial means to afford language training and that it is virtually impossible to find foreign applicants anywhere in the world who are already qualified as nurses AND have native-level proficiency in Japanese.
(4) What incentives is Japan prepared to offer nurse candidates who are selected? Unlimited residency? Citizenship?
Frankly, without serious incentives, I doubt that many foreign nurses will want to come to Japan.
(5) How badly does Japan want/need foreign nurses?
In my opinion, not that badly — judging by how hard it is to get selected and by the lack of meaningful incentives offered.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.