Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Poaching Nurses

June 14, 2006

Poaching Nurses

The Lancet medical journal June 3, 2006 contains an article “Poaching Nurses from the Developing World”.

The article gives grim statistics. The American Hospital Association reports that here are 118,000 current vacancies of qualified nurses in the U.S. Nursing schools in the U.S. do not have sufficient staff and 32,000 students were refused entry into Baccalaureate level nursing programs in 2005.

Developed countries have long looked upon the developing world as a nearly limitless source of willing labor to fill the nursing shortage. 50,000 nurses have immigrated to the US in the last decade. Most of the countries from which these nurses come are facing extremely serious public-health problems, including epidemics of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. These are the same problems we see in Haiti everyday. Haiti and the rest of the developing world cannot afford to lose these nurses who frequently manage an entire ward of a hospital when there is no doctor available.

The Lancet reports, “Only 10% of the global burden of disease is concentrated in the Americas, but 37% of all health professionals work there”. A UN report reinforces that this brain drain of health workers is effectively subsiding care in the rich world. Clearly, further migration of workers will be disastrous for developing countries.

OSF-SFMC in Peoria and other large medical centers in the U.S. that attempt to lure nurses from their dirt-poor home countries should realize what they are doing. Diana Mason, editor of the American Journal of Nursing, said the main problem here is the “primary moral issue of draining these countries of their much-needed nursing resources and further undermine their healthcare infrastructure and the health of their people (and thus of their economies).” Mason states that a recent report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research suggests that the nursing shortage continues as a result of collusion among hospital administrators to keep wages down and of longstanding gender-based wage discrimination. Can you believe it?

According to Lancet, the U.S. Congress should be creating ways to fund and strengthen the nursing infrastructure in the US, thereby developing a local workforce. Nursing salaries could rise and the poaching of nurses from the developing world would no longer be necessary. And most importantly, patients in the Philippines, Africa, and Haiti wouldn’t lie in their hospital beds without care.

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