Even before the coronavirus, the US was dangerously low on nurses. Now, as infections and hospitalizations surge in communities least-equipped to manage the virus, the issue of America's nursing shortage has never been more urgent.

The coronavirus pandemic was conspicuously slow to arrive in America’s South and Midwest, but a tectonic shift in who the contagion touches and where it reaches has forced a grim reckoning: the coronavirus isn’t just a big-city crisis anymore. Now, it’s an everywhere and everyone problem.

But unlike bustling urban corridors with well-staffed and provisioned hospitals, the rural and bedroom communities in which the virus is spreading today are the least-equipped in the country to contain the emerging outbreak. 

Health-care analysts estimated that the U.S. would need 1.6 million nurses to satisfy rising demand for care, but would be forced to leave more than 200,000 of those positions empty with the country’s workforce deficit. Unfortunately, that forecast was predicated on stable demand, not the sort of health-care crisis that is subsuming our hospitals today. 

As an emergency stopgap, a bipartisan group of 31 U.S. senators introduced legislation that would make it easier on hospitals to hire qualified international nurses. The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, which would recapture previously unused visas for English-speaking nurses with perfect clinical and criminal records, won’t even displace a single American worker because the domestic labor deficit is so enormous, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The front line in America’s fight against the coronavirus is no longer in major metropolises or tony suburbs. The pandemic spared some of our communities a few months, but it’s here now and we need nurses to fight it. 

Coronavirus and the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act

States look to overseas nurses

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Medical rationing in America

America’s nursing shortage has become so acute that hospitals—large and small, rural and urban—are being forced to ration medical care. We’ll say it louder for those in the back: the United States is rationing healthcare because it has too few nurses to provision it.

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