Immigration: More Foreign Nurses Needed?

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    immigration: more foreign nurses needed?
    full article at business week
    for more than a decade, the u.s. has faced a shortage of nurses to staff hospitals and nursing homes. while the current recession has encouraged some who had left the profession to return, about 100,000 positions remain unfilled. experts say that if more is not done to entice people to enter the field—and to expand the u.s.'s nurse-training capacity—that number could triple or quadruple by 2025. president barack obama's goal of expanding health coverage to millions of the uninsured could also face additional hurdles if the supply of nurses can't meet the demand.

    some lawmakers are looking to the immigration pipeline as one means to raise staffing levels. in may, representative robert wexler (d-fla.) introduced a bill that would allow 20,000 additional nurses to enter the u.s. each year for the next three years as a temporary measure to fill the gap. if the bill doesn't pass on its own, lawmakers may include it in a comprehensive immigration reform package. obama is slated to meet with congressional leaders on june 25 to discuss reforming u.s. immigration laws.

    hospital administrators such as william r. moore in el centro, calif., a sparsely populated town 100 miles east of san diego, see the wexler bill as a potential life raft. moore is chief human resources director at el centro regional medical center, a 135-bed public hospital that typically has 30 open positions for registered nurses (rns). while it's hard to lure nurses from nearby big cities (san diego is 100 miles west), moore says he could quickly recruit dozens of eager, qualified nurses from the philippines if the government allocated more visas. "all we want is temporary relief," says moore. "let us get a group of experienced rn hires from the philippines, and we won't ask for more."

    obama begs to differ

    wexler's bill is opposed by labor unions, whose leaders say it would undermine efforts to produce a steady domestic workforce while sapping other nations' nurses. obama has also expressed skepticism about the idea that the u.s. needs to import nurses, in particular because the u.s. unemployment rate continues to rise. "the notion that we would have to import nurses makes absolutely no sense," obama said at a health-care forum in march. "there are a lot of people [in the u.s.] who would love to be in that helping profession, and yet we just aren't providing the resources to get them trained—that's something we've got to fix." the $787 billion economic stimulus bill included $500 million to address shortages of health workers in the u.s., with about $100 million to promote nursing and increase capacity at u.s. nurse-training schools.

    the nursing shortage has a number of causes, including an aging workforce, difficult working conditions coupled with stagnating pay, and a lack of capacity at u.s. nursing schools. peter i. buerhaus, professor of nursing at vanderbilt university medical center, says the recession has eased the nurse shortage in some areas of the u.s. as more americans seek out the field's relative job security. some hospitals also see less need for staff as more americans lose health insurance and fewer people spend money on elective surgery and doctor visits. but buerhaus estimates that by 2025 the nurse deficit will be twice as severe as the last major staffing shortage in the mid-1960s, after congress passed the medicare and medicaid programs.
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    many u.s. nurses choosing not to work
    the trend worries leaders of nurses' unions, who say importing workers can lower incentives to improve working conditions. understaffing, mandatory overtime, and physically demanding work, such as lifting and bathing patients, take their toll. and while pay has risen in some regions to attract more nurses, in recent years it has flattened at the national level. that's why up to 500,000 registered nurses are choosing not to practice their profession—fully one-fifth of the current rn workforce of 2.5 million. union leaders say the down economy is a chance to bring these nurses back into the field. "if unemployment is spiking, why do we need to bring in nurses from another country?" asks ann converso, president of united american nurses, which represents 50,000 rns. "we believe thousands and thousands of rns would rejoin the profession if conditions improved." converso says she doesn't oppose all overseas recruitment, but that lawmakers' focus should be on improving staffing ratios in hospitals to improve working conditions. "we have to again allow nurses to do what they do best: care for human beings," she says.
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    one point everyone seems to agree on is that the u.s. needs more capacity to train nurses. since 2002, enrollments at nursing schools have increased so much that up to 50,000 qualified applicants are turned away each year from training programs. the main problem is a lack of teaching staff at these schools. dan stultz, president of the texas hospital assn., which represents more than 500 texas hospitals, helped form the texas nursing workforce shortage coalition to push for funding from the state legislature to boost capacity at texas nursing schools. stultz says the state has about 22,000 nurse vacancies now, and that the number could rise to 70,000 by 2020. meanwhile, for the last five years, 8,000 to 12,000 nursing-student applicants have been denied places at training programs for lack of space. "we have qualified people that get accepted and can't attend," says stultz. "we don't need more immigration; we need to increase capacity and grow our own workforce."
    Jarnaes likes this.
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  3. 156 Comments so far...

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    With unemployment soon to reach 10% many Americans are looking for steady jobs with good pay and benefits. Funds should be utilized to expand educational opportunities for future potential nurses. I work with nurses who have chosen nursing as a second career, former policemen, teachers, construction workers, displaced factory workers, the pool of potential recruits to the profession is endless. World Healthcare organizations have warned against American recruitment of skilled foreign Health care workers. Many of these workers are recruited from poor countries who also have a inadequate supply of trained professional.
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    NO we do not need to import nurses!
    tigertjc, NurseCubanitaRN2b, Sterren, and 16 others like this.
  6. 1
    Yet another thread on the pros and cons of foreign nurses?
    firefox828 likes this.
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    We ABSOLUTELY DO NOT NEED TO IMPORT any more foreign nurses, American educated nurses are finding it difficult to find a job!!! I was pleased to read the the President echoes what we already know---WE NEED to have more teaching facilities and educators to teach those that want to enter the nursing profession.
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    please hire me 1st before hiring foreigners! i am a hispanic bilingual new grad nurse and no one wants to hire me. i have lpn experience and i had one of the highest g.p.a.s in class with full scholarships for my rn year and yet no job offer! i'm sorry and no offense, but no to foreign nurses coming in!!! this is so absurd with the unemployment rate being what it is now!:angryfire
    NJCheyla, tigertjc, NurseCubanitaRN2b, and 12 others like this.
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    "While the current recession has encouraged some who had left the profession to return, about 100,000 positions remain unfilled."

    Someone want to let me know where they are?
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    I think if you live in an area with a shortage, it's difficult to see a way out (foreign nurses) and not being able to take it. Sure, there are plenty of places where nurses are having trouble finding jobs but there are also places where that's not true.

    There have been a number of threads from new grads (and to a lesser extent experienced nurses) who aren't able to find a job where they currently live but for whatever reason are not able or willing to relocate. It stinks there aren't jobs for them where they live but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of jobs available elsewhere and people living in those areas still need them filled.

    I would however, prefer to see us train nurses rather than importing them. I don't know where (or if) there are shortages severe enough that waiting years to train nurses would cause undue hardship but concede it's possible. In a situation like that, I wouldn't be opposed to foreign nurses coming in and filling those positions.
    Fiona59, firefox828, and inshallamiami like this.
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    Sigh - this gets really boring. I'm sure this EXACT Obama quote was posted in an article previously and we already had this whole argument.

    PS: EmilyLucille - a new grad is not equivalent to an experienced RN - the shortage is in experienced/specialty nurses.

    Signed - a foreigner.
    firefox828 likes this.
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    I think it is way wrong. What about those countries from which we are pulling experienced nurses? That is a detriment to them also.

    I think this whole thing is a ruse to lower costs and import cheap labor. Heck, they've been doing it all along with all the illegals from Mexico and other Latin American countries. The big bean counters just salivate at prospects like this. They could probably get away with paying them $35k/yr and work them like mules.

    It's exploitation and an affront to all the AMERICANS who are educated and qualified to do the work. It needs to be protested loudly and forcefully, or we're all going to suffer as time goes on.
    AZ_LPN_8_26_13 likes this.


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