Filipino-American nurses have long been a pillar of the healthcare establishment in the United States (see the Vox special). Their dedication to their work and their care and compassion for their patients have distinguished them as an irreplaceable part of our medical community.
But when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, these same traits made them especially vulnerable to the virus. Serving on the frontlines, often in the intensive care units where the sickest patients require high-contact, round-the-clock care, Filipino-American nurses have taken the brunt of the pandemic. By September 2020, Filipino-Americans constituted over 30% of all deaths of registered nurses in the USA, despite making up only 4% of registered nurses (source).
Filipino-American nurses are resilient, but they need our awareness, appreciation, and above all our support in this time of national crisis. Recognition of this need led The Justly Project, an initiative committed to using oral history to raise support for the Filipino-American nursing community, to enter into a narrative nursing partnership in 2020 with the Philippines Nurses Association of America (PNAA), the national professional association for Filipino-American nurses. The PNAA had, at the time, begun to build a narrative nursing program called SPARK: Stories of People, Achievement, Resilience, Kindness.
Together, The Justly Project and the PNAA have launched SPARKJustly in order to capture and share the stories of Filipino-American nurses. Taking a holistic oral history approach, SPARKJustly aims to document the lives and careers of the selfless Filipino-American nurses working in hospitals and medical facilities around the country. These interviews include urgent reflection on the Covid-19 pandemic, but they also look beyond the present crisis to set the work of these Filipino-American nurses in their life narratives, which include stories of education, family, immigration, discrimination, and above all, courageous and compassionate care.
Each oral history interview, conducted over Zoom, features a Filipino-American nurse interviewee in conversation with Dr. Mary Joy Garcia-Dia, President of PNAA; Elizabeth-Grace Goel, founder of The Justly Project; and Ren Capucao, nurse historian and registered nurse. The full audiovisual recordings have been deposited in the PNAA Archives as an indelible record for the Filipino-American nursing community from this historical moment. In an ongoing project, SPARKJustly is also producing excerpts of memorable, striking, and important discussions from these conversations to share these courageous nurses’ narratives with the world.
If you’re inspired by these stories to help, we encourage you to look out for more information soon from The Justly Project and the PNAA about a joint fundraising initiative to give back to the Filipino-American nursing community.