A Filipino American registered nurse has been appointed director of global standards and qualifications of CGFNS International, Inc., the world’s largest credentials evaluation organization specializing in the nursing and allied health care professions.
Jasper Tolarba, a Fulbright scholar, will assume the new position responsible for the oversight of global standards and qualifications for nursing and other health care positions.
“I am hoping that in my expanded role as director of global standards and qualifications, I would be able to contribute to the improvement of international nursing education by looking at best practices and evidence in the field,” Tolarba told the Asian Journal.
He is hoping to translate these global standards into useful instructional concepts that nursing institutions globally can reference and adopt with the unified goal of developing caring and competent world-class nurses.
Tolarba, who received his doctorate in nursing practice with specialization in leadership and health policy from Yale University in 2015, returns to CGFNS after completion of his research as a J. William Fulbright Scholar at the Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST) in the Kingdom of Jordan. He first joined CGFNS in 2016 as director of credentials evaluation services.
“I’m pleased to welcome Dr. Tolarba back to our team and know that his Fulbright experience, combined with his previous depth of knowledge and expertise, will go far to further strengthen our role in the global standards and qualifications sector,” said Dr. Franklin Shaffer, president and CEO of CGFNS International. “Having migrated from the Philippines and used CGFNS’ services in his own journey to practice nursing in the U.S., Dr. Tolarba’s experience in these areas provides personal insights that enhance our leadership team.”
Journey to CGFNS
Tolarba joined CGFNS International, Inc. (formerly known as the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools) in the summer of 2016 as the director of credentials evaluation and was in charge of various programs such as VisaScreen® service and Certification Program. Prior to this, Tolarba was the director of nursing at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.
At CGFNS, he has helped thousands of foreign-educated nurses and other health care professionals (e.g. Physical Therapists, Medical Technologists, Clinical Psychologists, etc.) with their goal of migrating and practicing their profession in the United States, Canada, and other parts of the world.
In his new role, Tolarba will lead CGFNS’ programs around global standards and qualifications for health professionals by collaborating with global leaders in the fields of education, regulation, accreditation and practice to promote innovation and the advancement of harmonization to enhance cross-border mutual recognition.
Last year, the World Health Organization declared 2020 as the International Year of Nurses and Midwives coinciding with the 200th year of the birth of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.
“We never expected that this year would also catapult the role of nurses to the limelight with the onslaught of COVID-19 pandemic. Nurses, along with doctors and other healthcare professionals, are deemed modern-day heroes, putting their lives on the line,” Tolarba said. “It is indeed a very challenging time for nurses around the world especially those who are in the front line.”
The virus, considered by many now as the treacherous enemy, has taken the lives of many people around the world including those nurses in the frontline fighting this war.
This is the reason why he would like to personally call for nurses around the world to be vigilant in the frontlines to make sure they are taking the proper precautions to protect themselves.
“They also need to speak up if they feel that they are unsafe going to their patient care assignments,” Tolarba said. “Always wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) when caring for patients afflicted by COVID-19 and demand to have proper PPEs.”
“Nurses’ lives are priceless, and they too have families. Losing one more life in the fight against COVID19 is too many. The whole world appreciates the work and dedication of all frontline nurses fighting this battle against the coronavirus,” he added.
“Quite honestly, I never planned on becoming a nurse. I was really planning to take up architecture or journalism in college,” Tolarba told the Asian Journal.
When he was in high school, he realized that he had a knack for writing and drawing. Tolarba comes from a modest family and his mother singlehandedly raised him and his five siblings since his father died when he was still a small child.
“So, my mother, a public school teacher in the Philippines, asked me (more like told me) to take up nursing instead because my older brother was a senior nursing student that time and this way, I could use his books, old uniforms, and clinical paraphernalia, in order to save money,” Tolarba shared.
So despite being less than thrilled, he soldiered on. On the side, he dedicated his time still doing what he loved, i.e. writing and campus journalism and ended up being the editor-in-chief of the Bicol Universitarian, the official student campus paper of Bicol University.
He graduated but still, he didn’t want to become a nurse so instead of taking the board exams for nurses he went to enroll for his second degree, this time in journalism. After two years, he was still unemployed so his mom gave him an ultimatum to take his board exams.
To appease his mom, he did and even though two years have passed since he obtained his nursing degree, he passed the board.
However, the prospects of landing a job as a nurse in the late 1990s was dim because that was the time when the United States was on retrogression and there was an oversupply of nurses in the Philippines.
While waiting for better prospects, Tolarba went to graduate school, finishing a master’s degree in education. He went on to the University of the Philippines-Diliman and got admitted to the doctorate program for education, where he spent the next three years, until his immigration papers arrived.
“It was a hard decision to abandon my Ph.D. studies but beginning a new life in America in 2004 was something I looked forward to because my wife was already in the US at that time,” he said.
In the U.S., his first employment was as a staff nurse at a local hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. While working full-time, he also received a master of science degree in nursing. After graduating, his family moved to Connecticut, where he spent more than a decade working before pursuing further studies.
Tolarba was one of the 14 inaugural doctoral students accepted to the Yale University Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, among the many achievements he has amassed throughout his career. He has become an international expert in the topics of international nursing education, nursing mobility and migration, and nursing curriculum evaluation.
“I am humbled by the opportunities that come my way and I have to thank my mother for showing me the right path even though nursing was not my initial choice. It only proves the old adage, ‘Mother knows best!’” he said.