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Indian nurses flock to the US

By George Iype in Kochi
Last updated on: February 16, 2004 18:21 IST
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The critical shortage of registered nurses in the United States has led to a boom in the recruitment of Indian nurses to America.

A number of American hospitals are these days putting in requests with manpower consulting agencies and nursing schools across India for recruiting nurses.

Thus these days, thousands of nurses across India are getting trained to take examinations in CGFNS (Commission of Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools), TOEFL (Test Of English as a Foreign Language), TWE (Test of Written English) and TSE (Test of Spoken English).

"The spoken English was the most difficult part. But I have made it," says Mary Abraham, 23, a nursing graduate in Kerala who is taking up a job with a Dallas-based hospital in April.

Abraham, who underwent the tests after preparing for more than one year under a recruitment agency in Bangalore, says, "The tests were really tough."

Most Indian nurses are used to working in the Gulf countries and thus are not familiar with the rigorous examinations of the US. "It is difficult to pass these tests at one go. I am happy that I passed through in my second attempt," Abraham added.

As many of the nurses who have passed these tests are already on their way to various hospitals in the US, a number of institutes in India are tying up with hospital groups in America for supplying Indian nurses.

K C Shankaranarayanan, director of the Kochi-based Vidya Bharati Institute of Management and Training that has launched an intensive training program for nurses to take up jobs in the US says it is a boom time for nurses in India.

"In fact, nursing is now the fastest route to the Green Card for an Indian in the US," he points out.

Shankaranarayanan's Institute has entered into the nurses training because "the huge demand for nurses in America is the next best thing to happen after the software boom."

Already, the institute has inked an agreement with the US-based Covenant Hospital Group of Milwaukee. As per the agreement, nurses who pass the tests undergo a series of telephonic interviews before they are issued job visas to the various hospitals of the Covenant Hospital Group.

Held thrice a year, CGFNS is the most important qualifying examination, a prerequisite for aspiring nursing professionals to secure a promising career in the US. Currently, Bangalore and Kochi are the only two centers for the CGFNS certification programme.

Officials at the St Johns Immigration Consultancy at Kochi say there is a mad rush of nurses to the US because they are unappreciated and underpaid in India.

"In the US and European countries, registered nurses earn good salary and equal facilities of doctors unlike in India," points out St Johns managing director Mathai Augusty.

The consultancy charges Rs 15,000 per nurse to give training for CGFNS examination for a month. Augusty says hospitals in India are now the recruitment ground for US agencies because Indian nurses are fast getting trained in the requirement of excellent spoken English.

The Indian Association of Occupational Health Nursing has launched an online training programme for the nurses to take up the CGFNS test. It provides study materials to those who join the online program.

In addition, the Association frequently conducts model examinations to train the nursing students for the American jobs.

According to estimates of the American Nursing Association, there are at present 126,000 nursing jobs lying vacant across the US hospitals. Figures compiled by the US Department of Health and Human Services has pointed out that the nursing shortage will turn worse in America as the country would need some 450,000 nurses by 2008.

Consultants say these days it is easy for the Indian nurse to get a green card compared to a software engineer.

Last year the US Department of Labor abolished the time consuming process of getting a labour certification for foreign nursing professional to migrate to the US.

The usual procedure for an immigrant visa meant that the applicant had to go through a labour certification procedure. But the acute shortage of nursing professionals forced the Department of Labour to do away with the procedure. As a result, registered nurses have been put on the Schedule A, which put them on a fast track to a US Green Card.

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