Immigration Law Could Prompt 15,000 Canadian Nurses To Leave Jobs in United States
Thousands of Canadian nurses who work in U.S. health care institutions could leave their jobs on July 26 when the final provisions of an eight-year-old immigration law take effect, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The law will require that Canadian nurses, attracted to the United States by the higher wages offered by U.S. providers, receive licenses through testing of proficiency and English competency. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing estimates that up to 15,000 Canadian nurses will leave their jobs as a result of the new law, and the council says that health care institutions across the United States will be affected. Hospitals near the Canadian border could be particularly hard hit because Canadians account for up to 40% of nurses at those facilities, the Journal-Constitution reports. Currently, there are more than 100,000 vacant nursing jobs across the United States, and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations estimates that number will grow to 275,000 by the time the oldest baby boomers reach retirement age.
A study published last week by the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing found that as a result of the shortage, nearly 40% of nurses surveyed were working shifts of 12 hours or more, which resulted in "significantly more errors in care," according to the Journal-Constitution. To try to remedy the shortage, providers are working to fill vacant positions with foreign-trained nurses, who now make up 4% of nurses in the United States, according to the journal Health Affairs. Increasingly, nurses are being recruited from developing countries such as India, Nigeria and Kenya. However, some health authorities worry that hiring nurses from such countries takes away much-needed health care staff from resource-poor nations. "We do not see the answer to the nursing shortage as recruiting foreign-born nurses. If we recruit from other countries we leave them without nurses," Dr. Myra Carmon, president of the Georgia Nurses Association and a professor at Georgia State University's Byrdine Lewis School of Nursing, said (McKenna, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 7/13).