November 17, 2014

VA Chief Should Also Look to Closest Ally For Needed Staff (Op-Ed)

As the newly appointed VA Chief Robert A. McDonald criss-crosses the nation looking for physician and nursing talent to fill the newly appropriated 28,000 new hires needed by the Veterans Administration, there are many worthwhile strategies being promoted to reach the goal:

  • Training new nurses, but there is a shortage of nurse educators to make this happen. This is a great idea and a problem that must be tackled, but real results (more new nurses) will take years to realize.
  • Working on it's pay scales to be more in line with the rest of the healthcare market (however most of the focus is on physician pay).
  • Positioning the VA as a desirable place to build a career (which it certainly is). However, this is a hard sell when Big News Media focuses in on "mass firings" of those responsible in lapses of service. Not a PR spin that will attract a lot of new recruits, be it deserved or not.

There is one other strategy that should be explored: Turning to internationally-trained nurses to help fill some of the shortfall. Where would they come from? How could this be done? Well the Philippines of course. Here's why:

  • Immigration reform is on the horizon and the U.S. needs to not fetter on amnesty for illegals, but rather on skilled workers to build our future. Filipino RNs, physical therapists, and medical technologists certainly fit the bill.
  • A handful of companies (Such as PassportUSA) already exist with the bandwidth to recruit and screen nurses and allied health professionals that meet all U.S. immigration and professional licensure standards.
  • The exportation of Philippines healthcare professionals to the USA, the middle east, Europe, and Canada is a Philippines government regulated and promoted activity. In much the same way we export excess agricultural products, the Philippines has an over-abundant supply of healthcare professionals they wish to place overseas.
  • The Philippines is arguably the U.S.' biggest ally. Ninety percent of Filipinos view the U.S. and its influence favorably and eighty-nine percent have confidence in United States president, Barack Obama in 2014. This makes the Philippines the most pro-American country in the world.
  • The Philippines nursing coursework is modeled off of the U.S system.
  • And, last, but not least, the Philippines nurse work ethic is really quite good. I see this every day when performance appraisals are returned to us by our client-base.

Mr. McDonald would do well to get his two cents in on immigration reform to include set-asides for skilled healthcare professionals and then look abroad to supplement U.S. talent with great overseas labor. Even if any immigration reform enacted does not address healthcare, there are still hundreds of Philippines nurses with current Green Card priority dates and U.S. nursing licenses that could be working at VA facilities in the next few months.[sbscrbr_form]

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