NEW YORK CITY, United States – Filipinos comprise about 90% of nurses at the Amsterdam Nursing Home, and if you ask Florida Lucas, the assistant director of nursing, she wouldn’t be surprised if such ratio exists in other nursing facilities in Manhattan as well.
“I would say so,” she replied when asked by The FilAm if such is typically the scale in hospitals and other homes for the aging population.
Filipino nurses, according to a 2008 New York Times article, are “highly prized” in New York’s area city hospitals “because they speak English, are trained in American-caliber medicine and enjoy a reputation for tender care.”
The estimated 75 Filipino nurses at Amsterdam include the whole range of staffing, from registered nurses to certified nursing assistants to agency nurses. The facility’s managers, like Lucas, are mostly Filipinos also.
Lucas explained why Filipino nurses are in high demand: “We are hardworking, dedicated, knowledgeable, patient, compassionate, and intelligent.” Even new hires with little or no experience are “willing to learn” and “show initiative,” said Lucas, who was promoted to her current position in June.
Rising through the ranks
Lucas is probably typical of the Filipino nurse in America who has provided faithful and professional practice through the years.
Amsterdam is only the second facility she has worked with since coming to the US in 1992. Prior to this role, she worked for 8 years with DeWitt Rehabilitation & Nursing Center on East 79th Street, departing with the title of supervisor.
When she joined Amsterdam in 1999, she began as a Nursing Supervisor rising through the ranks across disciplines: Rehab Nursing Coordinator, Infection Control Coordinator, and Employee Health Services Coordinator, until she was promoted to Assistant Director of Nursing for Clinical Services.
“Funny, our parents are both teachers, but all my siblings are in health care,” said Lucas, who graduated at the Marian School of Nursing and Midwifery with honors.
Lucas’s two older siblings are doctors, while she and her younger brother are nurses. The older brother works as a physician in Ohio, and the older sister runs the family hospital in their hometown in Alicia, Isabela.
The Lucas-Paguila Medical Clinic & Hospital has been operating as a 25-bed in-patient facility for more than 20 years.
“Our parents’ dream is for all of us to become doctors. I decided I wanted to be a nurse,” Lucas shared with a laugh.
From Iran to Manhattan
Her wanderlust led her to the Middle East. After college, she worked in Iran and Saudi Arabia. She was there in late 1970s when the forces of Ayatollah Khomeini overthrew the monarchy of the Shah.
As her hospital was in the province, she did not experience the turbulence of that period, seeing it only in newspapers and television.
She came to New York after working for 5 years in the Middle East. Aside from a desire to see the US, New York City became a challenge for her, after an aunt had said that the best Filipino nurses are out there in America.
The 130-year Amsterdam on the Upper West Side is one of Manhattan’s oldest nursing homes. It has a capacity of 409 beds, and is a 5-star rated nursing home in Manhattan, one of the city's largest. It provides short-term rehabilitation as well as long-term care to elderly New Yorkers, said Lucas.
“We are a non-profit,” she said. “Our patients are mixed, diverse.”
Short-term patients stay anywhere from one to two months. Amsterdam is largely a “home” for seniors in long-term care.
With the high stress that nursing usually entails, Lucas finds relaxation being out with friends, engaging in sports, and going shopping.