I am happy to share our inaugural CGFNS policy brief; with the COVID-19 emergency, the rationale for this being the Year of the Nurse and Midwife is especially clear. CGFNS has always been a voice for nurses and allied health professionals, and particularly the foreign-educated health professionals that are a key component of a sustainable and resilient health workforce. Being part of the policy arena—with the U.S. government domestically and the organizations including the WHO, UN, and ICN internationally—is who we are. But in these challenging times, our voice—and the voice of the nurse—needs to be heard more than ever. We will periodically bring you these policy briefs on issues of importance at the intersection of migration, healthcare and nursing, and credential evaluation.
—Franklin A. Shaffer, EdD, RN, FAAN, FFNMRCSI
President & Chief Executive Officer
As much of the world approaches two months of effective shutdowns to combat COVID-19, CGFNS International, Inc. is working to ensure that qualified foreign-educated health professionals (FEHP) are empowered to deliver patient care where they are needed most.
In the U.S., an Executive Order cites overwhelmed consular resources and high domestic unemployment to suspend most immigration for 60 days, but health professionals are exempt. Yet CGFNS recognizes that more is needed to bolster and support our overburdened nursing workforce. Most notably, CGFNS supports the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act (S.3599) to allow up to 25,000 nurses to join the frontlines during the COVID-19 emergency.
CGFNS International the world’s largest credential evaluation and skills qualification organization for nurses and allied health professionals, is immigration neutral—meaning it neither promotes nor discourages the migration of FEHPs. As a global standards-setting organization working with 195 countries over the 43 years of our existence, we have assessed and validated the academic and professional credentials of FEHPs to ensure they can be empowered to live and work in their country of choice. In line with this mission, CGFNS enables FEHPs to migrate to the United States and contribute their academic and professional capital to our nation’s fight against this unprecedented pandemic. In the inaugural State of the World’s Nursing Report, a key finding was, “Nurse mobility and migration must be effectively monitored and responsibly and ethically managed.” CGFNS’ Alliance for Ethical International Recruitment Practices has a multi-stakeholder Code that establishes principles to ensure that when that recruitment and migration does occur, it happens fairly, transparently, and ethically.
While the situation is urgent and demanding of a rapid response, we have maintained both the quality and integrity of our processes while simultaneously recognizing that COVID closures and mail restrictions mean that innovative approaches and modified process are required. In addition to our internal efforts to demonstrate our commitment to FEHPs, we are proud to share the following actions in the government and policy arenas we have taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Supporting S.3599 for more visas for foreign-educated nurses (FENs): Due to the unavailability of visas, CGFNS has validated the credentials of more than 20,000 nurses for VisaScreen certificates who are not able to get visas due to years-long waits, and there are tens of thousands of others who would relish the opportunity to work in the U.S. The pending Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act (S.3599) would recapture up to 40,000 unused visas from previous years and reassign them to health professionals, including 25,000 nurses, until 90 days after the COVID-19 emergency. This ensures that qualified FENs with visas can enter the United States to address the critical health needs of our patients.
- Collaborating with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to ensure FENs can enter: As a result of coronavirus concerns, regular border crossings are prohibited in many cases. CGFNS International worked with U.S. Customs and Border Control to ensure that qualified FENs with visas can enter the United States to address the critical health needs of our patients.
- Requesting the U.S. State Department to prioritize FENs: With embassies and consulates closed for visa interviews, many FENs found themselves unable to secure visas to travel and practice in the United States. CGFNS considers health professionals, notably nurses, to be the foundation of our healthcare systems’ efforts to combat the novel coronavirus. The U.S. Department of State has acknowledged our request to ensure that qualified FENs can have their interviews and expeditiously receive their visas from the National Visa Center to come and practice their profession in the United States.
- Identifying and supporting health workforce needs with FEMA: Based on our recent work and our long-term partnership with the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), CGFNS worked with a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Health Workforce Resilience Task Force. As FEMA seeks to bolster the U.S. health workforce to combat COVID-19, CGFNS argued that FENs can be a key part of a comprehensive solution to pandemic-triggered healthcare shortages.
As a global organization trusted and designated by the U.S. government to evaluate the credentials of foreign-educated health professionals who wish to bring their skills to benefit American patients, we are proud of our efforts to address our country’s critical health workforce needs while also supporting countries around the world face their own healthcare challenges.
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