As hospitals across the country face a shortage of nurses, two South Jersey hospitals are revisiting a method health systems have used in the past - recruiting nurses from other countries.
Susan Nicolosi, a health-care recruiter at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in Camden, and Grace Corteza, a registered nurse originally from the Philippines, recently went to that Asian nation to sign 26 nurses for two-year commitments. The hope is that they will make South Jersey their home.
"It's a very future-thinking thing," Nicolosi said after her return. "We are looking down the road. This nursing shortage is just going to get worse."
Underwood-Memorial Hospital in Woodbury has contracted with a recruitment service to help it bring in 11 nurses from overseas.
Despite the cost and immigration issues, recruiting nurses from outside the United States is a tactic many other hospitals and health systems are trying, or at least considering.
"Everyone is looking at it," said Geri Moon, the New Jersey Hospital
By 2020, there will be 20 percent fewer nurses than are necessary to staff hospitals, nursing homes, school infirmaries and other health institutions throughout the United States. The World Health Organization last year said the shortages amounted to a global staffing crisis.
New Jersey Colleagues in Caring predicts a 30 percent shortfall of registered nurses in the Garden State - or a deficit of 24,100 by 2020.
"I think the most recent survey that we did found 168, 000 nursing positions for which hospitals are recruiting and trying to fill, but are unable to do so with domestically trained nurses because the schools are not graduating them in the numbers they did 20 or 30 years ago," said Carla Luggiero, senior associate director of federal relations with the American Hospital Association.
Health systems say the shortage is not affecting patient care, although some nurses' organizations say it does.
There are now more nurses in their mid-to-late 40s than there are nurses in their 20s, the reverse of 20 years ago. Half the RN work force will be at retirement age in 15 years. Others are leaving the profession for more lucrative and less demanding jobs where they can use their skills.
The problem is magnified by a significant drop in people enrolling in nursing schools and aging baby boomers who will soon barrage health-care providers.
The health-care industry, alarmed at this convergence of circumstances, has few immediate options.
It can try to lure RNs away from retirement. It can recruit soon-to-be-graduated nurses. And, it can look abroad.
"Hospitals do feel that there are resources out there in foreign countries and they are using that to address the nursing shortage," Moon said. "The problem is the process can be cumbersome."
NJHA is surveying the state's hospitals about their overseas recruitment efforts. It wants to identify their biggest immigration hurdles and, hopefully,...