SEPTEMBER 8, 2021—The Department of State last week updated its visa processing protocols to provide a possible pathway for emergency visa processing of foreign healthcare workers.
The move comes as American hospitals are being crushed and the weight of the delta variant. At the same time, U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide have failed to schedule green card interview appointments with thousands of qualified international nurses, who have sterling clinical records and have passed background checks, US licensure exams, and English language proficiency tests.
The Department’s existing priority schedule provides four applicant processing tiers into which nurses inexplicably qualify dead last. The agency’s updated guidance doesn’t replace that framework but advised U.S. embassies and consulates that they may classify healthcare professionals’ immigrant visa applications as emergencies.
American hospitals cannot wait twelve months for “emergency appointments.” This solution is an incomplete one.
A national crisis: The American Nurses Association has called on the Department of Health and Human Services to declare America’s nursing shortage a national crisis and to convene a stakeholder task force to develop both short- and long-term solutions.
“The nation’s health care delivery systems are overwhelmed, and nurses are tired and frustrated as this persistent pandemic rages on with no end in sight. Nurses alone cannot solve this longstanding issue and it is not our burden to carry,” ANA President Ernest Grant said in a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.
Quote of the pandemic: “Every shift is the worst shift I’ve ever worked. I cried the whole way home from work every day“—nurse quoted in a new healthcare worker survey.
By the numbers: California’s most experienced nurses are eyeing the exits in historic numbers, according to a new survey by UCSF’s Health Workforce Research Center on Long-Term Care. From the report:
Other trends driving the shortage, per UCSF:
NOT TO PUT TOO FINE OF A POINT ON IT: California and others struggle to retain experienced nurses or train new ones while thousands of qualified, highly skilled nurses are waiting for their visa processing appointments at U.S. embassies worldwide.
Boomerang effect: Some trade groups and healthcare worker unions have begun warning that the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate for nursing home staff could drive roughly one-third of the sector’s workforce out.