Obama for reducing dependence on foreign nurses

March 6th, 2009 - 9:11 pm ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, March 6 (IANS) President Barack Obama has proposed an increase in the nursing education budget in a bid to end America’s dependence on foreign nurses, a large majority of whom come from India, China and the Philippines.

“The notion that we would have to import nurses makes absolutely no sense,” he said at a White House Forum on Health Care Thursday when a lawmaker pointed out that America’s huge shortage of nurses may mount to over 500,000 in the next seven years.

“And there are a lot of people who would love to be in that helping profession, and yet we just aren’t providing the resources to get them trained, that’s something that we’ve got to fix,” he said in response to the question from Democrat Lois Capps, who is one of the three nurses in the US Congress.

“That should be a no-brainer. That should be a bipartisan no-brainer, to make sure that we’ve got the best possible nursing staffs in the country,” Obama said.

Pointing out that US has a huge shortage of nurses and the “greatest bottleneck for educating more nurses comes from the lack of nursing school faculty,” Capps wanted to know how the US can further advance nursing education and faculty training.

Obama agreed, “Nurses provide extraordinary care. …And they don’t get paid very well. Their working conditions aren’t as good as they should be. And when it comes to nurse faculty, they get paid even worse than active nurses.

“So what happens is, is that it is very difficult for a nurse practitioner to go into teaching, because they’re losing money,” he noted.

To overcome the huge shortage of nurses a bill was introduced in the US Congress last week to provide for the new category of visas for registered nurses with an annual limit of 50,000. The proposed “Nursing Relief Act of 2009″ would make it much faster and easier to bring trained nurses from Asian countries.

According to the Department of Labour, the current national nursing shortage exceeds 126,000.

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