The Nursing Relief Act of 2009 has been introduced into the House of Representatives as bill HR 1001. The bill is a very good one for nurses and US patients. Unfortunately, we are a little skeptical that such a bill can survive the legislation process because of the economic crisis and other factors. Unlike the 2007 Bill, we hope that the current members of the House will see the urgent need to pass this now. Nevertheless, we are encouraged by activity and we applaud the sponsors and co-cosponsors of the bill and the underlying facilities that pushed for the bill.
The purpose of this Act is to create a new nonimmigrant visa category for registered nurses and establish admission requirements for such nonimmigrants.
The Congress finds the following:
(1) There are more vacant nursing positions in the United States than there are qualified registered nurses and nursing school candidates to fill those positions.
(2) According to the Department of Labor, the current national nursing shortage exceeds 126,000.
(3) States in the West and Southwest have a disproportionate number of nursing vacancies because of rapid population growth, which exacerbates a widening gap in the number of facilities and staff compared to patients that need care.
(4) Foreign countries such as the Philippines, India, and China have an oversupply of nurses.
(5) Major hospital systems in the United States spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year recruiting foreign nurses under our current immigration system.
(6) Current law, with certain limited exceptions, requires health care providers to sponsor desired nurses for permanent resident status while the nurses remain outside of the United States, which can take as much as 3 years.
(7) This cost is passed on to consumers and adds to the rising cost of health care.
(8) Health care providers cannot efficiently and effectively recruit qualified foreign nurses through the existing immigration process.
(9) Our health care system requires an immediate modification of Federal laws relating to recruitment of qualified foreign nurses in order to operate at an efficient and effective level.