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Why Restricting Foreign Nurses From Entering USA Despite Nursing Shortage? - News - Nurses Arena Forum

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Why Restricting Foreign Nurses From Entering USA Despite Nursing Shortage? by Idowu Olabode : July 19, 2019, 12:51:03 PM
America’s population is growing, its workforce is aging and its health care system is straining under the weight of both. At the intersection of these trends is the practical question of just who’s going to care for all these new patients.

Increasingly, the nurse answering that bedside call looks and sounds a lot like me, a first-generation immigrant.

Consider the numbers: U.S. medical facilities will need to hire more than 2 million new health care workers within the next six years just to keep pace with rising demand for care. If and when they can’t, the country will suffer an interruption of care so catastrophic as to threaten the well-being of everyone from school children and pregnant mothers to seniors and dialysis patients.

For decades, the U.S. has maintained a delicate health care staffing balance by relying on foreign-trained nurses like me. Without us, most U.S. medical facilities would collapse. Thanks to a popular immigration proposal that would unintentionally restrict access to foreign medical talent, that just might happen.

The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, which the House passed last week by a vote of 365-65, would rapidly phase out per-country limits on employment-based visas in an attempt to ease the tremendous backlog for Indian green card applications. On paper, it’s complicated. In practice, though, it’s quite simple: It means passionate, qualified foreign nurses won’t be able to emigrate and deliver much-needed care.

America’s nurse deficit has been teetering at the brink for decades, but it’s only projected to worsen as baby boomers age into retirement. The plain reality is that the country can’t educate and hire enough U.S. workers to meet demand, forcing hospitals to recruit foreign talent to bridge one of the world’s most severe labor shortages.

Despite the urgency to hire more nurses, immigration rules don’t make it easy on either the hospital or clinician to fill long-open jobs. In fact, immigration laws require foreign-educated nurses living abroad to secure an offer of employment before they even begin the permanent residence application, which often takes a year or more and requires that they not enter the country until it’s been completed.

This lengthy process is unlike those for other high-skilled employment fields, like tech workers, who already are living and working in the country on work visas while awaiting green card consideration.

After years of waiting and seemingly endless forms, post-training credential certifications and English proficiency exams, I finally was able to emigrate to the U.S. in 2014 after having first secured a nursing position through a health care staffing agency.

My husband and children joined me, and together we found a community and built a life. We became Americans, all of us, but not without challenge or cost. After visiting the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, my daughter heard and answered the call to serve her new country and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force.

Coming to America changed my life. It gave me the special privilege to care for people in their most tender moments. I know that I make a difference in the lives of my patients, as do the hundreds of thousands of other foreign-educated nurses working in this country. Without us, America would be worse off. It’s just that simple.

America needs nurses now more than ever, but the Fairness Act will limit the country’s access to them. The bill might aspire fairness, but it doesn’t deliver it for nurses and certainly not for patients.


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