Then They Came For The Nurses. (And The Taxpayers.)
Nurses have a special place in my heart.
Years ago, when my father lay dying at the U.C.L.A.
Hospital, the doctors stopped by his room once a day to
deliver their brusque updates. Then they were gone.
But late at night, the nurses were in Dad`s room
holding his hand. And on their days off, nurses visited
my mother at home to lift her spirits.
Mom still gets
Christmas cards from the nurses who comforted her
But why? And why should these caring and
highly educated professionals be losing ground to
overseas nurses and foreign hospital aides?
Joy McIntyre, Director of Communications at the
University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, says that
nurses are in the “high touch, high tech”
And nurses are pivotal to a hospital`s efficiency.
According to Penn`s
Professor Linda Aiken (in her report “Nurses:
the ones with the solutions“) "Nurses know more
about solutions to the challenges of taking care of
people in hospitals than anybody else."
Aiken found that understaffing of nurses results in
higher incidents of patient death and nurse burn-out. For
everyone`s sake, Aiken urges hospitals to treat nurses
with greater dignity by paying wages consistent with
their education, experience and responsibility.
Unfortunately, hospitals are headed in the opposite
On December 29, a
60 Minutes segment titled
“Nursing Shortage” reported that U.S. hospitals have
120,000 nursing vacancies. (This was a repeat of a
segment that originally aired Jun 9th, 2002 –
apparently 60 Minutes really wants to get the
message across.) And to fill those jobs, hospitals turn
to placement firms like
Core Medical Group to find nurses abroad and bring
them to the U.S.
Lesley Stahl followed Core Medical Group`s Armand
Circharo [send him
mail] and his assistant Nicola Hopkins to South
Africa where they were distributing brochures offering
positions in “Arizona, California, Florida,
Georgia….wherever you want to go” to eager would-be
Hopkins not only offered five times the $5,000 to
$7,000 annual salary a South African nurse earns, but
also the plum: “Automatically, for families, we will
be sponsoring you for your green cards because this then
entitles husbands to come through with you.”
Of course, Circharo didn`t elaborate on some of the
fine print. Five times $7,000 equals $35,000;
considerably less than the going rate for U.S. nurses and
barely an adequate income for families in urban centers.
But Circharo will be getting his cut. So what`s his
I asked four nurses, each with over 20 years
experience and all with advanced training if the U.S.
has a nursing shortage. Their immediate and unanimous
And when I turned the floor over to them, they had a
lot to say.
Kathyrn Ellison, Los Angeles: “There are plenty of
nurses in this country. They are just choosing to get
out. We`ve had enough. It`s not worth the stress.
Ridiculous demands, rude doctors, ungrateful patients and
demanding families. Foreign nurses are a quick fix and
provide a false sense of security. There are language and
cultural barriers. Poor communication in a medical
setting can have disastrous effects.”
Mesonika Piecuch, Bakersfield, “There is NO nursing
shortage. The hospitals don`t want to pay U.S.-educated
and trained nurses the salary they deserve, so they are
hungry for the foreign nurses willing to bust their butts
and take all the guff the hospitals are dishing out for
considerably less remuneration. The U.S. hospitals don`t
give a damn about you or your American parents getting
sub-standard care from the unqualified people they are
hiring. It`s much
cheaper to pay a foreign nurse – A LOT less than to
pay the salary demanded by a highly-experienced, educated
The nurses I spoke to are quick to point to another
immigration scandal: they are incensed about policies
that permit illegal alien patients to receive what
Ellison called “Platinum” treatment for whatever
ails them. “Do you know what it`s like,” asked
Ellison, “to see people who haven`t paid one cent into
the system have procedures that would
cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars?”
Stephanie Henry, an
obstetric nurse from Santa Ana, recalled
illegal aliens producing multiple social security
cards each with a different name. The non-English
speaking patients “just happened” to be in the U.S. when
stricken by a medical crisis.
At the time, Henry was paying a hefty monthly premium
for insurance for her family.
Recently, the federal government piled insult on top
of injury by creating a
major loophole to allow more foreign nurses to get
H-1B visas. Effective November 2002, visa candidates
will no longer need a college degree. Three years of
“equivalent work experience” will count as one year of
college. The equivalency loophole gives employers
carte blanche authority to make college graduates out
of any H-1B they want to import.
Twelve years of changing bed sheets in China can be
considered the equal of four years of chemistry and math
at Penn. Who is going to verify the resumes from half way
around the world?
I also spoke with another nurse and one of the
subjects on the 60 Minutes piece, Professor
Joyce Thompson, then at the University of Pennsylvania
and now Professor Emeritus at the
University of Western Michigan. Thompson is one of
leading experts in health care ethics.
Thompson is gravely concerned about the quality of
American health care. When asked about
hiring nurses abroad, Thompson replied. “We have
the solutions in this country. We have to have the
political will at all levels of government to put the
solutions in place.”
Political will has been missing in the U.S. for nearly
We`re all hoping for—but not expecting—its comeback.
Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English at the Lodi
Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column
since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.