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U.S.-Based Recruitment of Foreign-Educated Nurses: Implications of an Emerging Industry

Pittman, Patricia M. PhD; Folsom, Amanda J. MPH; Bass, Emily

AJN, American Journal of Nursing: June 2010 - Volume 110 - Issue 6 - p 38-48
doi: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000377689.49232.06
Feature Articles

Objectives Despite an increase in the number of foreign-educated nurses (FENs) working in U.S. hospitals and nursing homes, very little is known about the industry that brought them here. Our objectives were to learn more about the size and scope of the international nurse recruitment industry, its business models, and the range of countries where companies actively recruit. Based on reports from focus groups of FENs in New York City, we also sought to identify some of the problems that have occurred in the areas of contracting and clinical orientation.

Methods We used a combination of qualitative methods and secondary data sources, which included U.S.-based international nurse recruitment company Web sites, interviews with 20 executives from international nurse recruitment companies, two focus groups with FENs in New York City, and letters sent to the Philippine Nurses Association of America by FENs seeking legal advice.

Results Through a July 2007 Internet search, we found that at least 273 U.S. companies were actively recruiting FENs. While most such companies focused on the Philippines and India, about 20 companies were active in Africa. (A second search revealed that, as of January, at least 211 U.S. companies were actively recruiting FENs abroad.) Within the industry there is growing use of the staffing-agency model, which typically requires nurses to sign 18-to-36-month contracts and imposes high breach-of-contract fees. The focus group discussions with FENs in New York City revealed inadequate orientation programs and several types of labor abuses.

Conclusions Concerns about recruitment practices, which were expressed by many industry executives and FENs, reveal the need for accountability within the industry.

Keywords Foreign-educated nurses, recruitment, migration, labor rights, voluntary code of conduct

Researchers examine the international nurse recruitment industry and raise questions about accountability. Supplemental digital content is available in the text.

Patricia M. Pittman is an associate professor and Emily Bass is a research associate in the Department of Health Policy, School of Public Health and Health Services, George Washington University Medical Center, Washington, DC. Amanda J. Folsom is a senior program officer at the Results for Development Institute in Washington, DC. At the time this article was written, Pittman was executive vice president of and Bass was an associate at AcademyHealth in Washington, DC.

Contact author, Patricia M. Pittman: This study received approval from the Georgetown University Institutional Review Board and was supported by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The authors acknowledge the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools' leadership in working with them on organizing the focus groups with foreign-educated nurses in New York City.

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.