How international nurses are alleviating the nursing shortageâand improving U.S. health systems.
By Tierney McAfee
The national nursing shortage is driving organizations in the United States to look outside the country for talent. But experts say recruiting international nurses is more than just a temporary solutionâitâs a valuable opportunity to improve U.S. hospitals and health systems.
âOrganizations are just beginning to realize that there are not enough experienced nurses in the U.S. to meet their needs,â says Liz Bickley, senior vice president of healthcare client services for Cielo, a strategic recruitment process outsourcing partner. âThe only real option is to start to reconsider recruiting outside of the U.S.â
The nursing deficit in the U.S. is verging on a crisis as the healthcare system is strained by an aging population and increased access to public healthcare. With more than 500,000 RNs expected to retire by 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected a need for 1.1 million new RNs to avoid a further shortage.
Some healthcare providers are responding to the problem by adopting nurse residency programs, or âgrow your ownâ nurse programs, which help recent nurse graduates transition into clinical practice and continue to build skills while working alongside seasoned RNs. But Bickley says that in many places, there is still a need for experienced nurse care. Thatâs where international nurses have real potential for success.
Foreign-born nurses make up about 15 percent of registered nurses in the U.S., according to aÂ June 2016 reportÂ by the Institute for Immigration Research at George Mason University and the Immigrant Learning Center. Bickley says she has seen a recent uptick of companies in the U.S. recruiting nurses from Canada, the Philippines, India, Australia, and South Africaâcountries where nursesâ training is on par with that of U.S. RNs. While their skill level is similar, there is much to be learned from foreign nursesâ different experiences of practicing care, Bickley says, pointing to trauma and emergency room nurses from South Africa as an example.
âOne of the benefits that I think often goes unrecognized is some of the complexity of care or different skillsets these nurses can bring to the U.S. that might not be here today,â Bickley explains. âThe training and the level of care that nurses from the Philippines are providing is really strong, but itâs probably done differently. I think some fresh perspective and the ability for us to think differently could be really positive and help make our health systems even better.â
Bickley says itâs crucial for employers interested in hiring international nurses to consider their organizationâs infrastructure and ability to support such employees, as well as obstacles such as providing visa sponsorship and ensuring foreign nurses meet licensure requirements.
âIt isnât easy to do from an immigration perspective, so you need to feel really confident that these nurses are going to be able to transition and be successful. The process is a lot more involved than what we usually do,â Bickley says. âSo, we really push organizations to ask themselves, âAre we ready for this? Is our community ready for this? How are we going to be able to support nursesâ professional integration but also their personal integration into these communities and organizations?ââ
Geography is also a consideration. Bickley recommends that international nurses be placed in U.S. locations similar in scale to their native communities to avoid further culture shock.
âIf you take nurses from Manila [the capital of the Philippines], a huge urban city, and stick them in rural South Dakota without any kind of climatization or preparations for that, itâs going to be really hard on those people to just transition and be successful in that environment,â Bickley says.
While Bickley notes that recruiting international nurses doesnât offer a quick return on investment, it can help organizations save time and money in the long run.
âAside from the fact that weâre bringing experienced nursing talent to an organization, the retention tends to be really good, providing youâve done everything right at the beginning,â Bickley says.