By Christine Whitmarsh, RN, BSN
Following through on his numerous campaign promises to fix America’s ailing healthcare industry, President Obama kicked off his second full month in office by holding a healthcare summit at the White House. During the summit, Mr. Obama presumably received some of the same information that we in the healthcare industry along with the public by way of the media, have been hearing about for quite some time now. For instance: there are currently 116,000 unfilled RN positions in hospitals and 100,000 unfilled positions in nursing homes*
The president’s reaction, in his own words: “alarm”. The question he may be asking himself is: How can we promise universal healthcare for every American if there are not enough providers to deliver that care? One concern in particular expressed by the president, was the use of “foreign-trained nurses” to fill in the staffing gaps in America’s hospitals. This makes sense to me because of a different kind of universal care, universal standards of care that aspiring nurses learn in nursing schools across the country and are then tested on in standardized NCLEX nursing boards. There is a process, of course, that “foreign-trained” nurses must complete to get licensed in the United States. The differences in their core nursing training remain debatable.
With an aging population of patients, and a decrease in enrollment and graduate numbers from U.S. nursing schools, it is refreshing to hear that Mr. Obama is acknowledging the connection between the nursing shortage and the healthcare crisis. This is not to devalue other mission critical items in healthcare such as physician reimbursement or the insurance mess (is there really any other way to describe a system with an apparent goal of refusing coverage when people need it the most?). However without a supply line of trained, committed professionals on the frontline of patient care, without nurses, everything else is a rather moot point.
Thankfully, the travel nursing industry has long been stepping up to the plate. Travel nurse companies assist hospitals with staffing issues while providing flexible assignments to travel nurses with competitive salaries, benefits and diverse destinations.
Christine Whitmarsh is a Registered Nurse with a BSN from the University of Rhode Island. She is a freelance health journalist and medical writer and a contributor to Travel Nurse Source and Allied Travel Careers.