Nursing Shortage: Foreign Nurses Provide Aid To U.S. Hospitals
By: Portia Wofford
As healthcare facilities in the United States continue to struggle with the national nursing shortage, many organizations are using creative measures to fill the voids. For decades the U.S. has relied on foreign nurse recruits to balance the nurse supply and demand. As a response to the nursing shortage, here in the U.S., more organizations are utilizing foreign nurses.
Registered nurse vacancies remain high throughout the country. Although most hospitals depend on new graduate nurses to fill their openings, roughly 57% of newly licensed nurses leave their jobs within the first two years. Utilizing travel nursing agencies is popular in the nursing industry. Having experienced nurses who sign four to twenty-six weeks contracts, is an attractive solution for many healthcare organizations; however, many of these organizations are starting to use international nurse agencies instead. Companies like Avant Healthcare Professionals -- founded in 2003 by Shari Constantini RN, MBA -- staff healthcare organizations with experienced nurses from foreign countries.
Travel Nurses vs International Nurses
As the population ages, so are nurses. About one million RNs are older than fifty, according to the Bureau of Labor Statics. One-third of the nursing workforce will be at retirement age in the next ten years. The bureau projects an additional 203,7000 new RNs will be needed every year through 2026. Having experienced nurses to care for our patients is integral. Avant, an international registered nursing staffing agency, highlights four distinguishing factors between travel nurses and their international nurse counterparts:
- Contract length
- Incentive to nurse
- Cost factor
- Return on investment
Avant estimates that 90% of their nurses convert to the core nursing team, at the facilities they staff. Nurses who enter the U.S. are searching for a place to call home, after transitioning from overseas. It’s a huge incentive to have stability and become part of an organization and community; whereas, most travel nurses complete their assignment and are excited to travel to the next destination or return home. Cost is also a factor in organizations choosing international nurses as opposed to travel nurses. While travel nursing agencies provided housing stipends, per diem rates, and travel expenses; agencies that supply foreign nurses may charge facilities a flat hourly rate with no extra costs.
What about schooling and experience?
Due to immigration regulations, almost all foreign-trained nurses arrive with a bachelor’s degree. They are highly skilled and trained. On average, they have five to ten years of nursing experience. Most are educated at nursing schools designed to mirror U.S. nursing schools, so they've experienced a similar nursing curriculum as U.S. based nursing students. Foreign-trained nurses go through a rigorous process before entering the U.S. which include:
- Passing the NCLEX-RN
- Immigration and licensure process
- Passing the English Proficiency Exams
- Finding a sponsor
- Passing the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools
Companies like Avant, help streamline the process for nurses seeking to work in the U.S.
Studies show that foreign nurses are more likely to work shifts that are difficult to staff--such as holidays, nights, and weekends. Additionally, foreign nurses bring cultural diversity and awareness to the workplace. The United States is a melting pot, and nurses from foreign countries bring varied cultural viewpoints, cultural fusion, and can bring familiarity to patients from different cultures, religions or backgrounds. While travel nurses typically are on assignment from six to twenty-six weeks, international nurses are contracted for two to three years. This bonus of a long term commitment provides consistent staffing and continuity of care for patients.
Portia Wofford is a nurse, content strategist, healthcare writer, entrepreneur, and nano-influencer. Chosen as a brand ambassador or collaborative partner for various organizations, Wofford strives to empower nurses by offering nurses resources for development--while helping healthcare organizations and entrepreneurs create engaging content. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter for her latest.