Group releases code of ethics for international nursing recruitment

AcademyHealth has released a new voluntary code of ethics for use in recruiting foreign-educated nurses.

The code, authored by a task force of union members, healthcare organizations, educational and licensing bodies and recruiters, aims to assure the growing practice of recruiting foreign-educated nurses to the United States is done in "a responsible and transparent manner."

Recruitment of foreign-trained nurses is growing. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing reports the annual percentage of newly licensed, foreign-educated registered nurses in the country has risen to 16 percent from 5 percent in the 1990s.

A recent AcademyHealth study identified almost 300 U.S.-based international nurse recruitment firms, a tenfold increase in the number of companies since the late 1990s.

"There are concerns that the rapid increase in international recruiting creates opportunities for unethical behavior on both sides," said Patricia Pittman, executive vice president of AcademyHealth. "This task force brought together stakeholders with differing Ð and sometimes conflicting Ð perspectives who nonetheless worked together to find a consensus solution that protects the rights of foreign educated nurses and, in doing so, promotes quality patient care."

The authors of the AcademyHealth study found reports of unfair labor conditions, questionable contract practices and threats to nurses' immigration status. Conversely, employers and recruiters reported cases where nurses have breached their contracts after receiving assistance with immigration and resettlement.

The new voluntary code of conduct provides guidance on ways to ensure that recruitment is not harmful to the nurses' home countries, its authors said.

Linda J. Stierle, CEO of the American Nurses Association, said the nursing shortage is a  real problem, and the ANA is working hard to find solutions. "In the meantime, we want to be sure that our colleagues who are recruited internationally are treated fairly and are also properly educated and trained," she said.

The code has been endorsed by the American Organization of Nurse Executives, AFT Healthcare, the Service Employees International Union, the American Hospital Association, the American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, the American Health Care Association and the National Association for Home Care and Hospice.

Have you experienced difficulty as a recruiter or as a recruited foreign-educated nurse that you feel a code of conduct may help? Email Senior Editor Diana Manos at

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