Importing Nurses - Is It Wise?

Is recruiting foreign labor a wise solution to help curb the national nursing shortage crisis or just another move by the employing health care industry to import cheap labor? According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, a 21 percent increase in the need for nurses is projected nationwide from 1998 to 2008 and it could lead to a shortage of more than one million nurses by the end of this decade. This has created tremendous opportunities for healthcare staffing agencies, which recruit hundreds of nurses from India each year earning millions in revenue.

I know this much - the domestic workforce doesn't seem to share the same excitement about the profession as staffing agencies. Nurses' unions disagree with the premise that nurses from abroad will help solve the problem. Nursing organizations are voicing a deep concern that foreign nurses are not being incorporated into the unions upon entering the workforce. And this means hospitals and the like can hire foreign workers far cheaper than domestic nurses plus they don't complain about working conditions, because it's better than their home country. The result is a national deterioration of the nursing wage, which affects all nurses. "There is no shortage of nurses in Massachusetts," says David Schildmeier, spokesperson for the Massachusetts Nurses Association. "There is a shortage of nurses willing to work in hospitals under current conditions, assigned to too many patients, that is why people are leaving."

Another main cause to the nursing shortage is the number of qualified nurse educators available to teach future nurses continues to decline. This year nursing schools were forced to reject more than 147,000 qualified applications. Many point to the salary discrepancy that still exists in not being able to attract new nurse educators (RN to MSN), however that is beginning to change.

With 44 million baby boomers approaching retirement, nurse educator salary discrepancies, and a dwindling nursing workforce it seems that international recruiting is here to stay - at least for a while.

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