Nurses are leaving in droves in the United States, and those who remain are in such high demand that they are leaving full-time jobs to work as highly paid independent contractors.
A nurse shortage is especially difficult in the midst of a pandemic, and things aren’t likely to improve anytime soon. According to recent estimates, the United States will face a nurse shortage of more than a million by 2026. The reasons for the exodus are numerous and frequently systemic: nurses are overworked, underpaid, and find their jobs unfulfilling and dangerous.
However, there is one group of nurses jobs who are not eager to leave their jobs: those born or educated abroad. According to a survey conducted by AMN Healthcare, one of the largest healthcare staffing agencies in the United States, international nurses working in the United States may be experiencing the same hardships as their American counterparts, but they do not see this as a reason to leave their jobs.
The 2021 Survey of International Nurses was distributed to 1,500 international nurses in the United States who are currently or have previously worked for O’Grady-Peyton International, a division of AMN Healthcare jobs that focuses on hiring international nurses. Approximately 600 of them completed the survey, which discovered that, while international nurses are more likely to work in high-need and high-stress situations, and have experienced mental health issues and high levels of burnout during covid-19, the vast majority of them are satisfied with their work in the US.
The Philippines, Jamaica, and India account for the majority of international nurses in the United States (77 percent). They have a higher level of education than Americans, with 90% having a bachelor of science in nursing or a comparable status, compared to 56% of their local counterparts.
International nurses are typically hired with more experience, so they work in specialized disciplines and are more likely to work in high-stress environments, such as intensive care units or emergency rooms, than American nurses.
Furthermore, the vast majority of them (86%) treated covid-19 patients, with more than half (56%) treating multiple covid-19 patients. It reveals that one in every three people experienced mental health issues as a result of covid-19, and 81% reported feelings of burnout. As of April 2020, foreign nurses were paying a high price for their role in treating covid-19: 24 percent of the nurses who died from covid-19 were from the Philippines, despite the fact that Filipinos make up only 4 percent of the workforce.
However, this does not translate into a desire to leave the profession, particularly in the United States. Compared to half of the American nurses, nearly 80% of foreign nurses are satisfied with their jobs, 81 percent would like to work in the US again, and only 14% have considered quitting during covid-19. International nurses, like other categories of specialized workers, are eligible for permanent residency, so their decision to leave will not affect their ability to live and work in the United States.
Although exact numbers aren’t available, it is estimated that about 8% of the 3 million nurses working in the US are foreigners or foreign-educated. These percentages are expected to increase as more international nurses are recruited to compensate for the shortage of American healthcare workers. “International nurses] are not going to solve our domestic problem—we have a nurse shortage and we have a lack of nurse educators,” says Sinead Carbery, O’Grady-Peyton International’s president.
In the short term, however, recruiting more international nurses will help fill some of the gaps, especially because international nurses are far more likely to prefer full-time employment with one healthcare facility than working as travel nurses, despite the more lucrative nature of contract work. Only 10% of international nurses accepted a travel assignment, according to the survey.
According to Carbery, the Department of State is currently prioritizing the processing of green cards for nurses, and there is no shortage of visas available due to quotas left open by other workers who did not end up moving to the US during the pandemic.