Hanging in the Balance: Lived Experiences of OFW Returning Nurses


  • Princess Marie M. Famucol Union Christian College
  • Dr. Jeff Leigh Reburon Union Christian College


Lived experiences, OFWs, Nurses



The Philippines was characterized by a scarcity of jobs, particularly in the healthcare sector. Even those who secured jobs in healthcare faced poor working conditions that frequently motivated nurses to seek employment abroad. This is because the Philippines has been a major supplier of nurses deployed to work overseas. The study's objective was to describe and investigate the life experiences of Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) nurses and the reasons behind their decision to return home. The study aimed to provide insights for various stakeholders, including LGUs, NGOs, OWWA, DOLE, nurse leaders, and hospital policymakers. The goal was to develop strategies and enhance programs to ensure the voices and experiences of nurses are considered in both local and global decision-making. This approach aimed to reduce nursing turnover and shortages, particularly in light of the epidemic. The study also sought to allow staff nurses to express their challenges and emotions in carrying out their duties effectively during the pandemic, anchored on the question, "What were the lived experiences of nurses who returned home during the pandemic?" 



This study employed a qualitative research methodology to examine, explain, and interpret experiences and perceptions to uncover the meaning within specific events and contexts. The Husserlian descriptive phenomenology was chosen as the framework, enabling a thorough exploration of essential structures, insights into passive consciousness aspects, and a description and exploration of the meaning behind the actual experiences of OFW nurses. Ten participants, all OFW nurses working in foreign hospitals, clinics, and healthcare facilities, participated in the study. The data collection process utilized purposeful sampling, adhering to inclusion criteria encompassing staff nurses of various genders and ages who had ended their contracts during the pandemic from March 2020 onwards. The participants were of Filipino citizenship and had worked in different countries, regardless of their job status. Data collection continued until the saturation point, where no new information or themes emerged from the data. The primary data-gathering method was in-depth unstructured interviews conducted via messenger. The Ethics Review Board reviewed the study's manuscript, offering suggestions and recommendations before its execution. The study's purpose was explained to participants; only those who signed informed consent forms were included.



The analysis of the gathered data unveiled the truth behind the lived experiences of returning OFW nurses. The study identified a global theme named "Hanging in the Balance," under which three organizing themes emerged:

  1. "Weathering the Storm": This theme addressed the challenges OFW nurses face in choosing between staying in their country of employment or returning home. Participants shared stories of enduring homesickness while seeking better opportunities for their families. Some participants found a sense of "family" in their workplace, while others drew strength from their faith in God.
  2. "Blood is Thicker than Gold": This theme emphasizes prioritizing family over material wealth. Participants revealed strong connections to their blood relatives, often choosing to live in modesty with their families rather than in financial comfort alone.
  3. "Finding One's Center": This theme highlighted participants' realizations and struggles to avoid regret after choosing to return to the Philippines. It encapsulated the weight of their decision, encompassing both positive and negative aspects of their choice.



The overarching theme "Hanging in the Balance" captured the participants' varied experiences and decisions regarding staying or returning to the Philippines. While participants expressed concerns about losing their jobs, perks, and luxuries, they balanced difficulties with hope for better days. Family played a central role in their decisions, showcasing its significance as a safe haven. Ultimately, the study showed that returning OFW nurses, often regarded as "modern-day heroes," chose to strengthen family bonds and live a harmonious life with loved ones.


The study suggested several recommendations, including hospitals organizing programs and activities to foster good relationships among nursing staff. Increasing remuneration, providing stress debriefing, spiritual support, and mental health assistance were also recommended. Additionally, local government units were advised to offer financial and technical support to assist returning nurses in rebuilding their lives, potentially through income-generating training, financial literacy seminars, job fairs, and the creation of job opportunities. The study also proposed the possibility of conducting quantitative research to validate its findings and conducting qualitative research on a broader scale and for a longer duration to solidify the study's results further.



How to Cite

Famucol, P. M. M. ., & Reburon, D. J. L. (2023). Hanging in the Balance: Lived Experiences of OFW Returning Nurses. Ascendens Asia Singapore – Union Christian College Philippines Journal of Multidisciplinary Research Abstracts, 5(1), 88. Retrieved from https://ojs.aaresearchindex.com/index.php/aasguccphjmra/article/view/12582