Outsourcing: it is a watchword of big business, but did you know that outsourcing has an impact on nursing, as well? Of course, everyone is affected by outsourcing, but this particular usage of the practice puts nurse jobs and patient safety at risk.
We aren’t just talking about outsourcing clerical jobs or customer service. No, some health systems are pursuing trained nurses from other countries to fill in gaps in their rosters.
For instance, the practice of looking abroad for nurses is quite common in the United Kingdom. Although this may seem like a good idea for the so-called nursing shortage, it can actually be detrimental to the profession should the practice find its way to the US.
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
Getting a nursing job isn’t as easy as everyone thinks. With the economy in the toilet and older nurses working well past retirement age, the predicted surge in the need for nurses isn’t looking to pan out just yet.
In fact, many new grad nurses are finding it difficult to land that first job, and some are even taking less desirable jobs in medicine to make ends meet. If the idea of nursing outsourcing takes root in this country, those jobs could become even more scarce.
Why pay an American trained nurse the wage he or she demands when a competent foreign-trained nurse would demand less of a wage? It’s simple capitalism, and it could mean that there are less jobs for nurses in an already competitive marketplace.
While it is true that many foreign born and trained nurses have impeccable English, some do not. This can present a problem in a profession like nursing where communication is so vital.
Not only does it present a problem between nurses or nurse to doctor, it can also be problematic when a patient must confront a caregiver who has a tenuous grasp on their language. Of course, nursing is not unaware of this problem as English-speaking nurses attempt to speak to the increasing population of Spanish only speakers.
If outsourcing is going to be a practice in this country, then those who are brought over should learn to speak English well enough to be understood, particularly by patients. However, I also feel that your average nurse would do well to learn how to speak Spanish, as many of the patients now in our care can only speak it.
The communication barrier in nursing is a troubling situation without many clear-cut answers. However, infusing a breed of nurses who may speak a third language or are only fluent in Spanish can put patients at risk.
Nursing education in the US is tightly regulated, and most students have to follow a rigorous course load to become nurses. In addition, sitting for boards ensures that all new grad nurses have the same basic skills when entering the profession.
For foreign-trained nurses, the level of integrity may not be as high. Some schools in places such as India or the Philippines may not have accreditation or may be accredited through that country’s board of education.
This begs the question as to whether the outsourced nurses are of the same quality as an American trained nurse. We know the qualities of nurses from the schools that we can control, but who is to say the quality of a nurse educated elsewhere?
This could severely put patients in danger when nurses are on the floor without the basic educational background that is so important to good patient care. In saving a few dollars with an undertrained nurse, medical systems can put patients at risk, and that is not only bad for the profession of nursing but bad for medicine and patients, as well.