AAIHR Supports the Emergency Nursing Supply Relief Act

The American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment (AAIHR) announced its support today of the Emergency Nursing Supply Relief Act. The bill, recently introduced by U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, designates up to 8,000 visas annually for nurses, physical therapists and other healthcare professionals who are in critical need and short supply.

Shari Dingle Costantini, AAIHR Chair of Regulatory Affairs said, “This bill comes at the right time because it will bring relief to hospitals that are struggling to fill nurse vacancies during the worst nursing shortage in 50 years. We commend Rep. Sensenbrenner and encourage every Representative to support the Emergency Nursing Supply Relief Act. Quality healthcare is a bipartisan issue that affects every American who steps foot in a hospital or healthcare facility in the next several decades.”

The worsening shortage is exacerbated by numerous factors, including the aging nursing workforce and faculty shortages, and will require a comprehensive approach to meet the growing demand for patient care. Already hospitals in hard hit areas and those in dire need of specialty nurses, such as critical care and operating room, report nurse positions can take up to a year to find qualified candidates. Some hospitals are extending work hours for their current nurse staff to fill gaps. Experienced and highly qualified internationally educated nurses can immediately fill these vacant positions.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that there will be 1.05 million registered nurse (RN) job openings through 2022. Of those openings, as many as 300,000 won’t be filled in time with current graduation trends, according to a 2012 study by the American Journal of Medical Quality (AJMQ). The American Nurses Association (ANA) predicts a slightly higher number of 1.1 million new RNs by 2022 to fill newly created jobs and replace a legion of soon-to-be retirees.

“The nursing shortage is a serious issue that is looming over the country’s ability to provide patient care. Rep. Sensenbrenner’s bill highlights the important role foreign-trained nurses play in the American healthcare system. These healthcare professionals are compassionate, highly-skilled, and incredibly hardworking. We support the need for a consistent flow of employment based visas to close the gap between the number of patients who need excellent care, and the decreasing number of nurses and other healthcare professionals,” said Liz Tonkin, President & CEO of MedPro Healthcare Staffing.

“All applicants under H.R. 3351, such as registered nurses, must clear a special visa screen process, which is unique to this visa category. The nurses must pass an English fluency exam, have their foreign education evaluated for comparability to an identical U.S. education, apply for and pass the U.S. nursing licensing examination (NCLEX), and have their foreign nursing license reviewed to make sure that it is authentic and unencumbered,” explained Chris Musillo, Esq. of Musillo Unkenholt Law.

Unlike short-term H-1B visas that have recently come under fire for displacing American workers, registered nurses are a designated shortage profession by the U.S. Department of Labor. Unfortunately, AAIHR member companies have experienced significant delays in getting visa petitions through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and National Visa Center (NVC) since the beginning of 2017. “The USCIS has dramatically increased the requests for evidence, challenging and even denying visa petitions that would have easily been approved last year. The delays with the USCIS and NVC are unlike anything we have experienced,” said Chris Musillo.

Shari Dingle Costantini, CEO of Avant Healthcare Professionals, said, “We have been recruiting international nurses and healthcare professionals for over 14 years. The delays we are seeing with government agencies since the change in administration are dramatic. They are truly creating a hardship for many healthcare clients in critical need of nurses.”

The Emergency Nursing Supply Relief Act does not increase total visas, but allocates a portion of the existing total to healthcare professionals in critical needs categories.

The American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment (AAIHR) is a Delaware not-for-profit 501(c)(6) organization that is the voice of the international healthcare recruitment industry. AAIHR was formed in 2006 to represent the mutual interests of U.S.-based organizations that participate in the recruitment of foreign-educated healthcare professionals, and to promote legal, ethical, socially responsible, and professional practices for international healthcare recruitment. AAIHR is a trusted industry group for the recruitment of foreign-educated healthcare professionals for a variety of U.S. based healthcare organizations including many of America’s leading hospitals and hospital systems, skilled nursing facilities and rehabilitation facilities, outpatient centers, and home health organizations.