Recently we described how the US health system increasingly relies on foreign medical students to address manpower shortages in general internal medicine. Foreign nurses are streaming into the US for the same reasons, but sometimes things work out unfairly for them.
The US has experienced a nursing shortage for at least the last 15 years. Some predict we will have only 2/3 of the nurses we need to deliver care in 2020. The shortage has prompted 17% of US hospitals to recruit foreign staff, and more than 300 nurse recruiting agencies are out there to help. In 2004, 4% of our RNs were educated abroad; the number is higher now.
But foreign nurses have experienced a gamut of problems in the US: they are posted to jobs below their skill levels, end up working for providers other than the ones they signed contracts with, and occasionally they get unreasonably low salaries.
Now, a coalition of health providers has promulgated a code of ethics designed to shield foreign nurses from unfair employment practices in the US. The voluntary code summarizes relevant employment laws and suggests training and support for these nurses. The code is meant to be used by prospective US employers who might not know what rights foreign nurses have.