NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

U.S. Nurse Shortage Prompts Exams Abroad

August 20, 2002

American hospitals have been facing an acute nursing shortage, which has prompted the hiring of tens of thousands of foreign nursing-school graduates in recent years. Foreign candidates for U.S. hospital positions must pass licensing examinations along with two English-proficiency tests.

Currently, the exams are only administered in the U.S. But the National Council of State Boards of Nursing will start offering the tests in overseas countries by October of 2004 -- eliminating the need for candidates to travel to the U.S. before being hired.

  • More than 125,000 nursing positions here are currently vacant and experts predict that figure will triple in the next decade as the baby boom generation seeks greater health care.
  • More than 23,000 foreigners took the U.S. nurse-licensing exam last year and officials expect that the convenience of being able to take the exam in or near their home countries will swell the number of test-takers.
  • More than half the nurse-license applicants come from the Philippines -- with India, Canada, Nigeria, Korea, the United Kingdom and the former Soviet Union countries supplying most of the rest.
  • U.S. health-care providers spend as much as $10,000 per hire in recruiting efforts and immigration costs to fill their vacancies.

Source: Steve Friess, "U.S. Looks Abroad for Nurses," USA Today, August 20, 2002.

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