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"May Church do that?"

The hybrid seminar with 17 zoom and 20 presence participants (Photo: Julian Elf/UEM)

The International Diaconia program of the UEM, in cooperation with the Institute for Diaconal Science and Diaconal Management (IDM) of the Theological University (Kirchliche Hochschule) Wuppertal/Bethel and the Diaconia RWL, invited to a study day on September 9, 2020, which focused on the recruiting of nursing professionals using the example of the Philippines.

Current nursing care crisis in Germany with international consequences

The current state of emergency of the maintaining in of Germany hospitals and homes for the elderly does not only threaten the care of ill and old humans, but demands a large measure of commitment from the existing personnel, which loads in the long run very much. The current measures and promises of the German Ministry of Health are a drop in the ocean in view of the huge need for care today and in the future. The recruitment of nursing staff from abroad is therefore already vital for the survival of many diaconal institutions. Specialists from the Philippines are still very much in demand.

But what does the move abroad mean for Filipino nurses and their families? What effects does labor migration have on the economy and health care in the country of origin? Does the training of Filipino nurses fit into the German working context or would training in Germany be a sensible alternative?

German-Filipino Expert Exchange

Together with experts from the Philippines and Germany, the study day looked for answers to these questions. The aim was to identify criteria for ethically justifiable and fair recruiting of nursing staff and the necessary framework conditions for successful integration. Against this background, representatives of the three largest diaconal employers in Germany, such as Diakonie, Johanneswerk and the von Bodelschwinghsche Foundations Bethel, discussed their experiences with experts from umbrella organizations in Berlin, such as the Center for Migration and Social Affairs of Diakonie Germany and Bread for the Worldt, and with the heads of local diaconal organizations, nursing schools and professional recruiting agencies from Berlin and southern Germany.

In terms of content, the seminar benefited from the versatility of the participants and the diversity of their perspectives. The discussion was not only limited to the employers and experts from Germany, but also to the Philippine nursing professionals from Germany, who joined the seminar via zoom, as well as a professor of nursing sciences and deans of nursing schools in the Philippines. The summary of the results of a master's thesis on the challenge of reintegrating nurses, written by Priscilla Pascua-Quezon, a former UEM employee from the Philippines, was introduced into the discussion via audio recording. Mirjam Overhoff, Managing Director of the Philippines office, also pointed out the socio-economic impact of global recruiting on the Philippines.

Ethical criteria for personnel recruiting using the example of the Philippines

Prof. Dr Thoesten Moss from the IDM of the Theological University Wuppertal/Bethel helped to sort out the big ethical question "may church do that?". "In the process, it became clear that it cannot be our topic to morally question the individual life decisions of individual caregivers in the Philippines, but that it is certainly the task of the Church to ensure transparent information, fair and good living and working conditions and at the same time to assume an overall responsibility that also keeps an eye on health care in the Philippines," said Pastor Matthias Börner, who as head of the International Diaconia program of UEM was responsible for the program and organization of the event.

The multifaceted perspectives presented helped to shed light on the church's obligations in recruiting urgently needed specialists for its own diaconal care facilities and to ask about ethical criteria for the recruiting process. It was made clear that, in addition to very good preparation with regard to culture, language and expectations, intensive support during the integration process on site is also necessary. Close bilateral cooperation in the context of personal relationships between future employers and the nursing schools as well as a consistently high level of transparency of working conditions and the living situation in Germany play an important role here. For the well-being of the nursing staff, a spiritual offer including support as well as the close connection to the family, if necessary through family reunification, is seen as equally central.

Hybrid seminar invites participation

In keeping with the diversity of the group of participants, the hybrid format of UEM's educational event allowed the 17 zoom and 20 presence participants in the UEM office in Bielefeld-Bethel numerous opportunities for participation. This was achieved by using chat functions for zoom and tweedback. All questions and comments were digitally entered, then clustered by two of the audience's advocats and presented for discussion after each presentation. Sound clips, PowerPoint presentations and live zoom interviews as well as a discussion round at the end of the seminar offered both the present and zoom participants the opportunity to follow the discussion attentively at any time and to actively participate in it in a way that was visible and audible to all.

Church may not only, but must also relate to the reality of international recruiting processes in diaconia, precisely because it asks for ethical criteria. Last but not least, as an employer and mediator, the church offers a unique selling point that is highly relevant for many caregivers from the Philippines: it can provide an important spiritual home away from home.

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