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Why We Need Immigrant Nurses in Chicago Hospitals

Written By The Shapiro Law Group on March 25, 2020

According to the American Community Survey, there are about 10,300 internationally educated nurses trained and educated abroad who are not allowed to practice medicine in the United States despite ample need for more nurses. The United States economy is experiencing a medical staff shortage from nurses to home care attendants, to general practice physicians.

One area in which the United States could address this shortage is by providing a path for internationally educated nurses to get certified in the United States and to have their education count toward that certification.

The United States Nursing Shortage

The United States is rapidly aging as more and more Baby Boomers retire. These Baby Boomers are going to need an expanded healthcare system to care for them, which will require thousands of more nurses than are currently available. Internationally educated nurses can address this shortage. However, many are unable to become certified to practice. The certification requires three items to be completed:

  1. Prove English proficiency;
  2. Prove adequate training and schooling abroad; and
  3. Pass the NCLEX test.

Moreover, if the credential route does not work out, then the applicant nurses must complete coursework to get certified. The coursework frequently encompasses nearly an entire degree program, which is another barrier to integrating these trained healthcare workers. However, the coursework is tailored to each applicant; therefore, some applicants may be able to avoid taking a significant number of classes.

Further, bringing in more immigrant nurses will address another problem – the language barrier. Chicago and similar cities have large immigration populations who are not proficient in English. However, the nurses serving them largely speak no language other than English. Therefore, internationally educated nurses (IEN) are one potential source for bilingual nurses who can communicate with these patients.

Indeed, the Chicago Bilingual Nurse Consortium (CBNC) offers collaborations with community colleges and language programs to assist IENs in getting certified. Moreover, CBNC is also assisting IENs who are unable to complete the credential process by connecting them with community colleges who can complete their necessary coursework. These programs ensure that these nurses can complete the program and get credentialed at an affordable price. The United States is wasting valuable individuals in unrelated jobs when it could be harnessing them to fill critical open positions in the healthcare system.