By Christine Whitmarsh, RN, BSN
President Obama’s recent comments about the United States “importing” foreign-trained nurses to help with our country’s nursing shortage, are still weighing on my mind. You may recall that I discussed Mr. Obama’s comments in the context of his recent health summit, in my prior blog. Since posting that blog, I’ve had the opportunity to research what travel nurses have to say on the subject, specifically related to the Reuters article that I used as a reference: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090308/hl_nm/us_usa_nurses.
There is no doubt that, statistically speaking there is a shortage of nursing in America as compared to the number of nurses needed to fulfill recommended (and safe) nurse to patient ratios. It is better for nurse and patient alike when the nurse is responsible for 4-5 vs. 8-9 patients. I also have no reason to doubt the data about nursing schools having to turn away new students due to a lack of instructors. What I have heard that is disturbing, supports what the president mentioned in his health summit: apparently the only remaining option to remedy the shortage of nurses is to hire foreign-trained nurses. Now, before you scream “xenophobe” let me remind you that the point I’m making is the same as the public outcry about outsourcing American jobs overseas.
Are we to believe, based on published reports, that the nursing shortage is such that every nurse in America is currently employed, every travel nurse from the over 340 travel companies* in our country is on constant assignment and every other possible hiring resource has been exhausted? There is not a single unemployed nurse in America? The unemployment rate in the nursing industry is 0%? That seems highly unlikely to me, with a national unemployment rate quickly motoring towards 10 percent. From my point of view, a 0% nursing industry unemployment rate would be the only justification for essentially outsourcing American nursing jobs. In other words, I share the president’s concerns.
Travel nurses, I want to hear your voices on this. What are your frontline observations on employment within the nursing industry? What would you like to tell the national media about the real story behind the nursing shortage? Please speak up!
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.