There are several hospitals in the United States that are experiencing immense shortages of registered nurses, emergency nurses and other health care professionals. There is approximately a whooping 80 to 85 percent of American hospitals mention shortage while 15 percent expresses concern about the severe shortage they are experiencing.
According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, United States will need 2.8 million nurses. This estimated demand will be a million more than the projected supply of nurses. U.S. is not quickly replacing nurses at the same phase they are leaving the profession.
Currently, the average age of nurses working in America is 45 years old. By year 2010, and estimated 40 percent of all the working registered nurses will be more than 50 years old. Between 2010 and 2020, the largest group of registered nurses in the United States labor force will be between 50 to 60 years old. By this time, the nursing shortage would be exceeding 36 percent.
What’s happening to United Case is not an isolated case. Several countries are already reporting similar problem. In Ontario, Canada (Toronto Star) lost 14,000 of its 81,000 nurses due to retirement last 2004. While as early as December 2000, the World Health Organization already reported that Poland was graduating more than 10,000 nurses annually. But the figure dropped to 3,000. In Chile, out of 18,000 nurses in the country, only 8,000 are working in the field.
So what are the steps being done by the United States government to address this problem?
In April 2008 a bill was proposed in the United States House of Representatives by Congressman Robert Wexler from Florida and co-sponsored by Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-WI). This bill is called F.R. 5924 of The Emergency Nursing Supply Relief Act. As of the day, this bill has currently 11 co-sponsors.
Basically, this bill will allow additional visas to be set- aside for foreign trained nurses and physical therapists. The H.R. 5924 would save 20,000 employment based visas in each of the next three years for foreign trained registered nurses and physical therapists.
This bill will also provide funds to help U.S. nursing schools expand the domestic supply of nurses by coming from the $1,500 fee for those who would be applying for the visa. This would also establish a three-year pilot program aimed in keeping U.S. nurses in the workforce.
Immigrant visa applicants will need to attest that they do not owe their country of residence a financial obligation that was incurred for their education so that they would remain in that country. Both the American Hospitals Association (AHA) and the American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration support expressed their support for the bill.
Due to visa retrogression, a lot of foreign professionals who are interested in working in the United States are turned down. The U.S. government makes only a certain number of immigrant visas (green card) available each year and these are allocated among the various immigrant visa categories.
Recently, there are more immigrants approved for employment-based immigrant visas and has run out of visa numbers causing temporary backlog or retrogression. The U.S. has a waiting list for employment-based visas for nurses, and its nurse education programs turned away more than 150,000 qualified applicants last year due to lack of faculty and clinical space.
With the H.R 5924., it aims that the nursing shortages will be resolved. With this bill, the visa retrogression could be lift for nurses and physical therapists who have applied prior to September 30, 2011. Hopefully, we’ll see more therapists, nurses, E.R. attendants and nurses, and other health professionals taking care of the nation.