Language hurdle trips up Indonesian nurses

More than half of 104 Indonesian nurses who came to Japan in 2008 through a bilateral economic partnership agreement to obtain nursing licenses have returned home, due mainly to difficulties meeting Japanese language requirements, it has been learned.

Through the EPA program, Indonesian nurses have been allowed to work in Japanese hospitals for three years as assistant nurses who take care of inpatients. They are all licensed nurses in Indonesia. The program requires they pass an annual national nursing certification test during their three-year stay.

When the first batch arrived in 2008, the national exam was severely criticized, as non-Japanese applicants were disadvantaged by their difficulty in reading complex kanji used in the exam.

For example, the word “jokuso” (bedsore), which is difficult to read even for a Japanese if it is written in kanji, appeared in the exam.

The criticism prompted the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry to simplify the exam last year. The ministry put kana alongside difficult kanji to indicate their pronunciation.

However, Indonesian nurses were discouraged by another aspect of the EPA program. As assistant nurses, they were not allowed to conduct medical treatments such as drip infusions and injections, treatments they had engaged in as licensed nurses in Indonesia.

In Japan, they were primarily in charge of services such as table setting and bathing inpatients. After leaving Japan, most of them found new jobs in medical institutions in Indonesia.

The government has an EPA program with the Philippines, through which Filipino nurses are able to work in Japan. It plans to introduce a similar scheme with Vietnam.

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