As a predicted nursing shortage continues to impact healthcare options across the nation, a recent survey by O’Grady Peyton revealed some information about international nurses working in the United States.

The report by O’Grady Peyton, a US healthcare staffing agency with a focus on international nursing, explores some of the roles thousands of international nurses fill while also showing some of their experiences working as an international nurse.

With a respondent size of nearly 600 nurses, the 2021 Survey Of International Nurses revealed that a higher proportion of international nurses are working in roles that are traditionally challenging and high stress. For instance, international nurses work  in emergency departments (8 percent vs. 5 percent of all nurses), psychiatric units (11 percent vs. 4 percent of all nurses), and in intensive care units (19 percent vs. 15 percent).

The report’s findings state that approximately 300,000 nurses (about 8 percent of the nurses providing care) in the United States are internationally trained. Of those numbers, these nurses also hold high rates of education with 90 percent of the respondents having attained a bachelor’s degree in nursing or higher (12 percent hold a master’s degree in nursing and 1 percent have a DNP degree). In comparison, the latest statistics from 2019 indicate that about 56 percent of nurses hold a BSN or higher, so the numbers may have increased slightly.

The survey results show the majority of the nurses surveyed come from the Philippines, Jamaica, and India, with a slightly smaller percentage coming from Africa. Overall, international nurses have considerable experience working in the field before coming to the US with nearly 9 out of 10 international nurses having at least 10 years of nursing experience and 49 percent reporting 20 or more years of nursing experience.

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As these nurses have worked in the US, they have managed the care of COVID patients and have helped fill the extreme pressure on nursing staff everywhere. Eighty-six percent of the respondents have provided care for patients with COVID and more than half have treated multiple COVID patients. The resulting physical and emotional stress, as with all nurses, is having an impact. One third of the respondents said their mental health was affected by the pandemic and that the greatest stress comes from treating such severely ill patients. There is also significant stress from the anxiety around contracting COVID-19 themselves (17 percent said they have contracted the virus).

The international nurse respondents said they overwhelmingly felt accepted by their patients and colleagues, with more than 8 in 10 reporting that positive acceptance. The results weren’t as strong for other areas–only 56 percent felt that their pay was on par with what US nurses make. And just over a third conveyed experiencing discrimination often or many times based on their country of origin or ethnicity, the report stated.

Experiencing burnout is nothing new for nurses, but the pandemic has certainly made the stressors on nurses worse. The survey reports high levels of international nurses feeling some level of burnout (81 percent), but that despite the strain of the job, 8 in 10 of the respondents said they would work in the US if given the choice to do it over again.

Read the full report for more information on international nurses working in the United States today.

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Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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