The nursing shortage in the United States is well documented and is intimately understood by providers, residents, and patients. While some studies suggest the crisis will hit in the future when the baby boomers fully hit the system, the truth is that the crisis has been impacting many markets for years already. I doubt there’s one more significant factor to transforming long-term care (and real health reform) than to solve the nursing shortage crisis now. What happens in a nursing shortage … ?
- Providers are forced to become the employer of choice if they want to compete to be the provider of choice.
- Weakly led providers ‘settle’ for ‘warm bodies’ since they’re AFRAID of losing any scarce nurses. What they fail to realize is that the more nurses you’ve settled for, the more difficult it is to attract and retain the outstanding ones. But, that’s a topic for a different post.
A small sample of the coverage & statistics this year:
- March 8, 2009 Reuters: “An estimated 116,000 registered nurse positions are unfilled at U.S. hospitals and nearly 100,000 jobs go vacant in nursing homes, experts said.”
- August 1, 209 WorkPermit.com: “Our health care system requires an immediate modification of Federal laws relating to recruitment of qualified foreign nurses in order to operate at an efficient and effective level.”
- June 2009 American Association of Colleges of Nursing: ” … the ratio of potential caregivers to the people most likely to need care, the elderly population, will decrease by 40% between 2010 and 2030. Demographic changes may limit access to health care unless the number of nurses and other caregivers grows in proportion to the rising elderly population.”
But, the quote that TROUBLES me the most is from President Obama: “The notion that we would have to import nurses makes absolutely no sense,” Obama said at a health-care forum in March. “There are a lot of people [in the U.S.] who would love to be in that helping profession, and yet we just aren’t providing the resources to get them trained—that’s something we’ve got to fix.” My problem with that statement is that it is out of touch with reality. Sounds good theoretically/academically. But, thousands of hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, offices need nurses yesterday! I have no problem with the long-term fix he alludes to. But, it’s not an either/or question. We’ve got to do BOTH …
I had a wonderful trip to the Philippines last year to recruit nurses for some of our skilled nursing facilities. Between the agency I used and internal referrals, I interviewed 152 nurses during the week I was there.
I was profoundly impacted by the interviews. Many of them traveled 12 hours to meet with me for 15 – 30 minutes and then travel 12 hours home. Think about that. They want this so bad. They are dying for the chance to come the states. I interviewed several MDs, pharmacists, engineers, etc. who took up nursing for the chance to come here. I routinely heard of their desires to take care of their families … to lift them out of their current situation. I know this sounds corny, but I really fell in love with them and this country. I was so impressed by their friendliness, generosity, and respect. I was called ’sir’ more in that first day than in my whole life before. Everyone was so nice.
During the interviews I focused on personality, attitude, and confidence. I looked for the nurse who was cheerful, confident, interested, and eager. And, I found a lot of them. After the first day, I reviewed my notes on each interview and had about a 50% ‘Yes’ rate.
I also visited several hospitals to get a feel for the conditions of their experience. The public hospitals are in tough shape. We’re talking huge rooms (wards) with 50 people sharing beds with no privacy curtains and far less than sanitary conditions. The picture below is of an orthopedic ward’s census board of both pre- and post-op patients. 3 nurses for the 87 patients — providing all levels of care. The 3rd column of patients with ‘x’ next to the number is of the ‘extra’ patients on cots and beds in the hallway. Tough stuff.
On the other hand, the private hospitals were nice and the working conditions were much better. Although their training is good, the nurses we bring over will require quite a bit of training to ensure their successful transition.
Also … as far as the rates of pay, you need to follow federal immigration law which states the rate has to be in the range of the prevailing rate for a particular job within a particular market. This law prevents foreign nurses/workers from depressing citizens’ wages. The government posts that data here:
The DOL Online Wage Library: http://www.flcdatacenter.com/OesWizardStart.aspx Select the state, select the county, then you select position. Nurses are 29-1111.
I’ll update later on the results of the interviews and describe the immigration NIGHTMARE (I mean process) … I’d love to see your comments/questions/stories on this.