View Full Version : Nursing news: America's Nurse Staffing Crisis

09-18-2006, 02:06 AM
January 29, 2006 -- Recently the New York press has run good articles about the critical shortage of Suffolk County public health nurses. Today Newsday ran a piece by Ridgely Ochs, "Debate on public health services," that explained some of the effects of this situation on needy patients and the overwhelmed nurses. It also included comments from local politicians and health care figures as to how the problem should be addressed. This followed a very good and more comprehensive January 22 story in The New York Times, Julia C. Mead's "On the East End, A Nursing Shortage Is Felt Most Deeply." The Times piece powerfully conveyed both the key role the public health nurses play in patient outcomes and the desperate state of the program, following what some describe as years of neglect by the County government. Both pieces suggest that the nurses get lots of verbal support, but that they have not received the resources and real respect they need to do their jobs, even though their work is cost-effective in the long run. We commend those responsible for these two helpful pieces.

- The Newyork Times Newsday -

Most international nurses in the United States come from the Philippines, but many others come from Canada and India. In the past few years, Africa and China also have provided more nurses for American facilities.

Four years after she flew to the Philippines and began the process that ended in 39 newly hired nurses, Mary Jane Brecklin, RN, MA, BSN, says foreign recruitment made her organization better in more ways than one. “It was a life-changing experience for us,” said the recruitment and retention services coordinator for St. Louis-based SSM Health Care, a 23,000-bed network of home health, inpatient, and rehab services and hospitals.
Not only did SSM employees come together to create a generous start for their new counterparts, but the administration also figured out new ways to retain all staff members. Despite an estimated cost of $16,000 per nurse and the complications leading them through the thicket of immigration bureaucracy, administrators say the trouble of overseas recruitment was worth it.
Accreditation agencies have helped ease the process. In June, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing announced it would offer the NCLEX in three foreign countries — Hong Kong, England, and South Korea. The Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools continues to open new locations of its NCLEX predictor test for the same reason; it recently branched out into China and India. Most international nurses in the United States come from the Philippines, but many others come from Canada and India. In the past few years, Africa and China also have provided more nurses for U.S. facilities. Fewer immigration restrictions in the late ’90s opened up a new market for recruiters who were seeking solutions to the nursing shortage. The number of overseas nurses moving to the United States, which has ebbed and flowed according to restrictions over the years, subsequently jumped. According to the national council’s figures, 16,490 nurses from outside the United States passed the NCLEX in 2003, nearly double the number in 2001.

Foreign Investments
Although some hospitals view international recruitment as a band-aid to staff shortages, others support the benefits of hiring foreign nurses

By Heather Stringer
June 6, 2002

Cynthia Garcia, RN, remembers the potent mix of thrill and trepidation that coursed through her the moment she learned she'd landed a job in the United States.
The Filipino nurse knew she'd have to endure a difficult separation from her tight-knit family, but soon she'd be earning $1,600 per month instead of $50. She'd have a chance to pursue a better life and regularly send money to her family.

That was almost 20 years ago. Today, Garcia is working to give other nurses from the Philippines the same opportunity at her hospital, Methodist Medical Center in Dallas.

The 60 nurses she has helped recruit will have the chance to drastically increase their income and will fill positions that have been difficult to fill during the nation's nursing shortage.

But critics of foreign nurse recruitment point to a darker side to the practice of hiring international nurses for positions in American hospitals. They suggest that recruiting foreign nurses is a short-term solution to the shortage and argue that hospitals shouldn't be doling out thousands of dollars to recruit each foreign nurse, but instead should direct that money to strategies that will attract Americans to those jobs. Opponents also question the morality of taking nurses from countries struggling with shortages of their own.

Cheryl Peterson, MSN, RN, senior policy fellow at the American Nurses Association, said that U.S. hospitals cannot recruit internationally with integrity until they start "tending to their own business."

"The drawbacks are related to the fact that we are using immigration as a way to deal with our nursing shortage without addressing the root causes as to why we have a shortage," she said.

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