Sunday, September 16, 2007

Are Foreign Nurses the Answer to the Nursing Shortage in the USA?

Over the last few days and weeks I have received a number of interesting articles in my e-mail box proposing an interesting contradiction in viewpoints.

One of the viewpoints states that importing foreign nurses to solve the nursing shortage in the USA is causing nursing wages to be kept artificially low and discouraging qualified nurses from becoming instructors at nursing programs. The net effect is fewer nurses in the profession and lower wages overall for everyone. Foreign nurses are willing to work for lower wages for a variety of reasons. In many cases it's because they don't realize that prevailing wages are higher than they expect. Often, it's because the nurses fear asking for more money because of the perception that the employer will take steps to have them deported if they "rock the boat". According to one article over 30% of the nursing workforce are foreign born nurses. The call for higher wages is coming from a number of groups including nursing instructors and other health care advocates. One of the detrimental effects often cited as a reason to limit the number of foreign nurses we use in the USA is that it steals critical skills needed in the countries that these nurses come from.

The opposing viewpoint states that part of the solution to solving the nursing shortage should involve bringing in more nurses from foreign countries. These nurses are critically important to filling the empty nursing jobs advocates say. There are barriers that need to be overcome including language proficiency and making sure the nurses can meet the standards required to be licensed as a nurse in the USA. Advocates of increasing the number of foreign nurses point out the disturbing facts that nursing shortages are having a direct impact on patient care and potentially harming patients who don't receive adequate care or the right care because of the nursing shortage.

Issues are raised by both sides that are relevant and require answers. Are nurses who come from the Phillipines (0r other countries) the health care equivalent of 'sweatshop labor" forced into an economic slavery? How much harder is it to be a patient advocate if you live in fear of unemployment and deportation? Are we just being selfish when we take the best and the brightest nurses and bring them to the USA? What is the impact on the other countries? The world is in the midst of a global nursing shortage. Aren't we just making the problem worse when we "rob Paul to pay Peter"?

One thing this author knows for sure is this... In times of turmoil come opportunities. Travel Nursing is alive and well in these turbulent times.

If you are a nurse and you are curious about wages and benefits of nursing you really should check out

Until next time I remain your Travel Nurse commentator

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