NEW YORK NURSE: September 2008
by Joely Johnson
The story made headlines. Nurses recruited from the Philippines were accused of endangering patients when they quit their nursing home jobs over unsafe and unexpected working conditions.
The “Sentosa nurses,” so-called for the agency that recruited them, are not alone. As the nursing shortage has worsened, the practice of bringing foreign-educated nurses to America has grown. As of 2007, approximately 20% of practicing nurses in New York State were educated in other countries. Many experienced unfair contracts and other troubling situations. But the treatment of RNs recruited from other countries may be about to improve.
Over the past year, NYSNA took part in a task force that developed guidelines for the ethical recruitment of foreign nurses. The problems the code seeks to address stem largely from the nature of the foreign-recruiting business, said Patricia Pittman, executive vice president for AcademyHealth, an association of health researchers and policy analysts that convened the task force.
“The contracts are often quite different from those of domestic nurses,” she said. Foreign RNs may not know exactly where or in what type of facility they will be working. Many are charged a large recruitment fee and may be penalized if they choose to resign before their 18- to 36-month commitment is up.
The Voluntary Code of Ethical Conduct for the Recruitment of Foreign Educated Nurses to the United States provides guidelines that aim to ensure that recruiting foreign nurses is done in a responsible and ethical way. The code is designed to increase accountability for recruiters and employers, and to ensure proper guidance for incoming foreign-educated RNs. “The new code will go a long way toward improving conditions for incoming foreign RNs and will encourage recruiters and employers to do the right thing when seeking out these nurses,” said Lolita Compas, past president of the Philippine Nurses Association of America, the Philippine Nurses Association of New York, and NYSNA. Compas spoke on NYSNA’s behalf at the official release of the code on September 4 in Washington, D.C.
The code also provides an overview on ways to ensure recruitment is not harmful to source countries. “The World Health Organization has identified 57 countries that are experiencing their own healthcare shortages,” said Pittman. “Recruitment in these sensitive areas must be done more cautiously.”
Although the code is voluntary, employers and recruiters will each be motivated to participate. AcademyHealth has plans to develop a monitoring group that would maintain a list of compliant organizations. Those who practice ethical recruiting will be listed as preferred, making them more attractive to prospective incoming RNs. Code violators would be given three months of guidance to correct the problem, after which they would be delisted. “Essentially, this is using the market to improve behaviors,” said Pittman.
Read the full text of the code at www.fairinternationalrecruitment.org.