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Visas hard to secure for badly needed nurses

By Kristi Eaton

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Dec. 15, 2008) – Due to the severe lack of nurses within the U.S. healthcare industry, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ombudsman is recommending expediting green card applications for nurses.

This could help the CNMI's Department of Public Heath, as the majority of nurses at the Commonwealth Health Center are nonresidents.

"Visa availability continues to be the principal obstacle for many immigrants and non-immigrants seeking employment in the United States, and the number of visas available can only be addressed through legislation," according to the directive.

The United States will require 1.2 million registered nursed by 2014 to meet demand, the directive notes, citing a 2007 study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"The nursing shortage detrimentally affects the healthcare industry by decreasing the quality of healthcare," the directive reads.

The USCIS should separate and prioritize visa applications for nurses in an effort to alleviate the problem, the ombudsman said.

A similar process was used in 2005 to alleviate a shortage.

University of Loyola president Dr. Johnny Fong said the move would help bring more students to the university. Students attending the University will know once they graduate they will be able to find employment in the United States, he said.

It also will help CHC and the CNMI. As students graduate from the college, the hospital will be first choice for the influx of new nursing graduates, he said.

Eleven nurses will graduate from the University of Loyola this week, and 20 students recently graduated from Emmanuel College's nursing program. Northern Marianas College also offers associate degrees in nursing.


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