Why does America shut its doors to foreign nurses?

In Medical Care (April 2011), Mary Blegen and other researchers found increased nursing care staff hours were associated with lower rates of dying from congestive heart failure, infections and prolonged lengths of stay. The conclusion: “Higher nurse staffing protected patients from poor outcomes.” According to a study published In The New England Journal of Medicine (March 2011), “Staffing of RNs below target levels was associated with increased mortality, which reinforces the need to match staffing with patients’ needs for nursing care.” A Journal of the American Medical Association study found that increasing a nurse’s workload from four to eight patients would be accompanied by a 31 percent increase in patient mortality.

There is no such thing as a free lunch. The cost of policies that permit too few nurses to work in America is paid for by a greater rate of infection and increased patient mortality. There is a solution to this problem: Reform U.S. immigration laws to allow in foreign nurses who wish to serve U.S. patients and save lives.

Stuart Anderson served as executive associate commissioner for policy and counselor to the commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service from August 2001 to January 2003 and is executive director of the National Foundation for American Policy, a nonpartisan research group based in Arlington, Va.