The long story of nursing shortage in the US

By Crsipin R. Aranda/ – A nurse should be familiar with a heart bypass: an open heart surgical procedure allowing blood to flow to the heart via alternative routes, if one or several vessels are blocked and thus, deprive the heart of the much-needed blood to keep it pumping and the patient alive.

Where four blood vessels are blocked, quadruple bypass is usually done to reroute the blood supply to keep a patient from suffering a fatal heart attack.

The US needs a bypass – apparently more than just a quadruple is needed – to keep the supply of registered nurses to the country to keep the healthcare of American citizens and residents at safe levels.

America’s need for nurses triggered the creation of the H-1A visa, through the Immigration and Nursing Relief Act of 1989. When the program ended in 1995, another visa was created, the H-1C. In 1990, the H-1B visa came into being for professionals.

It was during this period that nurses from the Philippines were able to work and later obtain permanent resident status in the US. Demand for nurses and the nurse-specific visas alleviated the shortage somehow. Meanwhile, advocacy groups in the US lobbied for action that would increase the number of nursing graduates from schools that are rewarded with funds.

Private partnerships were created to increase student statistics while government intervention from the federal to the state level rewarded schools with additional budgetary outlays.

The American Nursing Association (ANA), for example, issued policy statements and call to action for healthcare organizations to sound off their representatives in Washington, as well as employers to revise the way nurses are valued, while seeking adequate compensation and providing a clearer career pathway initially by funding nurses’ education, whether continuing education or academic progression.


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