Foreign Nurses Take Priority over US Nurses – A Bipartisan Boondoggle

A group of bipartisan legislators (13 Republicans/12 Democrats) want to import at least 25,000 extra foreign nurses, foreign nationals to work as “travelers” in America’s hospitals. This is despite the fact that tens of thousands of Americans are being denied places in underfunded nursing schools. Lets just bring over thousands of nurses that are not trained to American standards so we can water down our patient care but have a body on Hospital units.

This is big business at its finest. It is shocking the Republicans have anything to do with this. America’s schools of nursing should be the first line of support to get more nurses trained. At least the Democrats are focusing in this direction.

If hospital want more staff, they should support incentivizing education for medical professionals. Hospitals should return to the decades old practice of offering jobs to train nurses, physicians-assistants, nurse practitioners and so on with tuition incentives, in cooperation with college programs. A collaborative effort to retain nursing staff once trained, with tuition adjustments for years worked full time was formally a program that actually worked.

Republican Sen. John Cornyn said at a March 15 hearing – “If there’s one thing I hear from my hospitals in Texas, it’s the shortage of nurses because of the burnout factor associated with COVID-19 and the like,” adding “Now hospitals are having to pay incredible multiples of what they ordinarily would pay to nurses to contract with companies that basically will provide the [travel] nurses.” Again, I ask why not  seek to invest this time and funding to train Americans.

It is a fallacy that there are no Americans to go into the nursing profession as stated by Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma who said flatly, “Not enough Americans are interested in nursing careers”. Could it be that Representative Cole has not really looked into the Nursing schools in his state, such as the University of Oklahoma for example?

According to AP News this month, it was reported that, “The university will accept 100% of qualified nursing applicants this year, 555 students, up from 366 students accepted in 2021, which was about 62% of qualified applicants, OU President Joseph Harroz said Tuesday.” There are students applying.

America has multiple schools of nursing that are turning students away because these schools cannot support increased classes. Additionally, wait lists for acceptance into these programs are common and long. Some are often run by lotteries. For example, some students in Northern California specifically are driving to schools in Nevada just to get into a BSN program. That’s a 2-3 hour drive daily one way to get an education in Nursing specifically. The situation is ridiculous.

Expanding, and incentivizing these schools and their nursing programs, nationwide would be a better use of taxpayer dollars in the short and long term. Qualified Americans should get these jobs before they are offered to foreign nationals. If the bipartisan collaborative wants to demonstrate true fiscal planning – they will invest in the US first and not support this form of pro-migration to garner other votes elsewhere in congress.

If this is really about the state of the national nursing shortage and growing American jobs and not trying to just obtain votes in the Senate for its immigration bill – the legislature needs to take a stand for its citizenry.

The Hechinger Report gives a clear picture of the already lacking Federal support for schools of Nursing. In December they reported that, in “LONG BEACH, Calif. — At a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed a growing shortage of nurses, it should have been good news that there were more than 1,200 applicants to enter the associate degree program in nursing at Long Beach City College. But the community college took only 32 of them.”

Further it was also reported that U.S. universities/ colleges collectively rejected over 80,000 applicants for bachelor’s and graduate degrees. These programs sited a lack of faculty, suitable classroom space and clinical opportunities in hospitals. Apparently, this number doesn’t include those applicants turned away by community colleges, the starting place for most beginning nurses.

To expand class sizes in these training programs, health care institutions need to work collaboratively with the Schools of nursing in their communities providing clinical access for training, sharing their clinical educators wherever possible and again incentivizing a career in nursing at their own facilities. Opportunities of this kind are long term in their approach and support the medical industry without ignoring those who sincerely desire to care for others. Nursing is not a job – it’s a calling. Legislators should be helping these individuals answer the call.

Hospitals that overwork their nursing staff through poor staffing practices, with little regard for the dedication shown by the nurses they currently employ, should not be bailed out by the Federal government because they cry loudly for US tax dollars. They need to support Americans who apply for education as nurses and those whose health profession jobs can be assisted in climbing the ladder to nursing.

Certified Nurse Aids, Licensed Practical Nurses, Corpsmen, Medics and their military equivalents, Paramedics and EMT’s are but a few examples of those professions that could feed this shortage if this bipartisan bill were turned around to support America’s health industry. Again, Americans should be sought out through incentive packages – a better use of tax dollars.

Senator John Hickenlooper (D-CO) said it best – “If we are serious… We should make it easier for those without college degrees, for working parents, and for those without previous experience, to break into early-stage healthcare jobs.” This statement makes too much sense apparently for his colleagues and challenges the lobbying focus of the American Hospital Association (AHA).

Republican and Democratic legislators alike have not focused on accelerating the training of American nurses. Further according to the American Hospital Association’s 2022 advocacy agenda, in 58th place, the AHA calls for legislators to, “Address nursing shortages and burnout by reauthorizing nursing workforce development programs to support recruitment, retention and advanced education for nurses and other allied health professionals.” In 62nd place, they add “Address faculty shortages that constrain our ability to meet future nursing needs by investing in nursing schools, nurse faculty salaries and hospital training time.” These goals should be listed in their top ten bullets not buried near the bottom of the document.

Has the AHA shared these stated goals with legislators? If so, why are these servants of the people so bent on supporting the import of thousands of foreign nurses? Is this whole bipartisan activity really focused on the health-care industry or is it simply an elaborate ruse to get votes out of other legislators who think this supports the actual nursing shortage, the medical industry or health care practices? Tragically, the facts support the latter and Americas nurses (or those who would be) are the losers.

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