In our previous article we discussed immigration obstacles faced by many foreign physicians who wish to enter the United States to practice medicine, and how those obstacles could contribute to significant future shortfalls in the number of doctors. The National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) reports that the shortfall in the number of nurses may surpass that of doctors.
The NFAP policy brief quotes a recent study published in the American Journal of Medical Quality which stated that “with an aging U.S. population, health care demand is growing at an unprecedented pace . . . The number of states receiving a grade of ‘D' or ‘F' for their [registered nurse] shortage ratio will increase from 5 in 2009 to 30 by 2030, for a total national deficit of 918,232 RN jobs. There will be significant RN workforce shortages throughout the country in 2030; the western region will have the largest shortage ratio of 389 RN jobs per 100,000.”
The brief indicates that a key problem with seeking to increase the number of nurses domestically is finding qualified instructors at nursing schools. Hiring foreign nurses would alleviate this problem to a large degree were it not for the incredible challenges faced by foreign nurses in obtaining a temporary visa, especially when it comes to job requirements and country of origin. That leaves green cards as the only viable option for most foreign nurses. Unfortunately, the wait for employment-based green cards is currently 5 years or more from most countries.
The policy brief further indicates that “unlike other foreign nationals who can work in the United States in H-1B status while waiting for their green cards, typically a foreign nurse must wait overseas. It is a testament to the need for foreign nurses that employers would endure the cost and the wait of at least 5 years until a foreign nurse could begin working in the United States. The problem is not simply overall numbers but the distribution of nurses geographically and the need for specialty nurses.”