Philippine doctors to nurses in the US

by Motongever Motongever (New) New Nurse

Specializes in PCU-Medsurg-Tele-COVID. Has 4 years experience.

Hi y'all,

This will be lengthy so I apologize in advance. You can skip to my questions at the very end if you'd like.

I'm a US-trained RN who wants to study medicine in the Philippines, for financial and personal reasons. I'd like to sit for the USMLE afterwards because my family is here and we know that doctors here are compensated very well. But ultimately I want to become a doctor to the barrio or eventually practice in the Ph when I'm ready to go back for retirement whenever that may be.

I'm seeing articles about Ph doctors who studied, either in the Ph or the US, to become nurses in the US. There are no follow ups to these articles, and the statements made by the Ph doctors sounded like becoming an RN has now become the end goal because "The pay is good, better, maybe better than a doctor (in the Ph)." I think to myself, doctors pay in the US is better tho? There's also a statement which says "(nursing) that is where the need is," but there are also needs for doctors.

This made me wonder, and if anyone of you have any idea or first-hand experiences that will help answer my questions, please share so. I understand that becoming an RN may be the easier route to get a visa (if they don't have family members that can petition for them) to enter the US since employers can sponsor for them, but once they are established or have become green card holders, they can then attempt pursuing residency here and practice medicine. So my questions are these:

1. Do Ph doctors turned USRNs find it not worth it to pursue medicine in the US. If so, why not?

2. How much did your medical education in the PH help in your nursing practice in the US?

3. In your experience, how different is the practice of medicine in the US as compared to the practice in the Ph? 

4. For USRNs who studied medicine in the Ph for the purpose of practicing medicine in the US, how was your experience like both during med school and medicine practice in the US?

Thank you so much for your time!

Dani_Mila, ADN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Progressive Care, Sub-Acute, Hospice, Geriatrics. Has 4 years experience. 381 Posts

Don't have the answer for you, but your article reminded me of the time during my clinical when a Filipino nurse was working in the hospital. He was a Filipino doctor in the Philippines but became a nurse in the US. IDK why he decided not to pursue in getting a MD license in the US.

CalicoKitty, BSN, RN

Specializes in Med-Surg, Geriatrics, Wound Care. Has 10 years experience. 981 Posts

I can't really help you with most of it. I've known a few people in the US that were doctors in their home country (one a nurse, one a tech). It sounds like there are a lot of expensive exams that need to be taken, and also the 'issue' of ensuring the education from your home country meets the US standards. Both have lived in the US for a few years, the nurse is pursuing CRNA, the tech still working his way through the exams.


Specializes in New Critical care NP, Critical care, Med-surg, LTC. Has 10 years experience. 4 Articles; 2,288 Posts

I don't have an answer to your specific question, but I know two people that came from the United Kingdom with medical degrees and in their cases, they would have had to complete nearly an entire new undergraduate education because of the difference in the education systems. Something related to our "liberal arts" classes requirements that their technical educations do not meet. It's unfortunate. But then again I find much of our "well rounded" focus to be a way for schools to make more money for very little gain to the students. 

Emergent, RN

Specializes in ER. Has 29 years experience. 2 Articles; 4,047 Posts

I worked with a Canadian woman who trained as an MD in the US, and that didn't meet the qualifications in Canada, so she practiced here in Washington. Apparently the education is structured differently and not deemed acceptable in Canada. 



Specializes in retired LTC. 7,735 Posts

It's my guess the Amer Med Assoc may have a hand in this issue. I believe them to be very turf-protective and seek to prevent an over-abundance of extra physicians cutting their overhead practices. Remember, for YEARS they fought tooth & nail against advanced nsg practice (some still do). I think they came up with PAs as their answer to adv nsg. And they still maintain their clout in their education & clinical practice.

If it were soooo easy for foreign physicians to come over & practice here, they'd prob flood the market. I would venture that AMA makes the transferability for foreign physicians difficult for that reason.  Somehow this is also reminding me how diff it is for foreign NURSES to license for practice here in the States.

TPTB just protecting their interests. JMO. Can't say that I've ever seen this written anywhere, but I'd bet it's a reason.



blushpink, BSN, RN

Specializes in Cardiac, NICU, CM. Has 12 years experience. 26 Posts

Hi! I don’t have first-hand experience, but I know a few friends who moved to the Philippines and graduated medical school there. They all came back to the US, but I’m not sure if they passed the boards here (I’m not close enough to them to ask.) 

One of my family members went to a DO school in the US, passed the boards and is currently a practicing physician. While he was researching and applying to medical schools, his opinion was that the schools in PI don’t prepare you for the US medical board exams.

On the other hand, another family member and several of her colleagues did graduate from medical school in PI back in the 1970s, and practiced medicine there before immigrating to the US (via their U.S. Navy husbands). It took them years to prepare for the US boards and pass. She does have friends who also transitioned into nursing or med tech careers. After she moved here, she started as a phlebotomist, then cardiovascular tech, and doctors here found out she was a doctor. They helped her study and prepare. It’s a matter of finding the best resources to help you pass the US boards. 

I’ve only read/heard of horror stories of US agencies recruiting nurses from PI, so I don’t have recommendations on employers/companies sponsoring visas.

I hope this helps a little. Good luck! 



Has 5 years experience. 551 Posts

On 2/9/2022 at 3:43 PM, Dani_Mila said:

Don't have the answer for you, but your article reminded me of the time during my clinical when a Filipino nurse was working in the hospital. He was a Filipino doctor in the Philippines but became a nurse in the US. IDK why he decided not to pursue in getting a MD license in the US.

Same with some other foreigners.