Immigrant nurses have more 'human capital' but forced to work their way up: Study

International nurses have more human capital than American-born nurses yet often get the worst jobs, according to a study by researchers at Durham, N.C.-based Duke University.

The study, published in the Journal of Nursing Regulation, analyzed demographic data of more than 1,800 nurses working in nursing homes or long-term care rehabilitation centers. Nurses were compared by human capital and their skills and competencies, and researchers found immigrant nurses were more likely to speak multiple languages, have additional certifications, have more years of experience and hold licenses to practice in multiple states.

Lead study author Roy Thompson, MSN, RN, said in an article on Columbia-based University of Missouri's website that there is evidence that immigrant nurses were more likely to be assigned to COVID-19 units during the pandemic. He added that they are often hired for underpaid, entry-level positions and forced to work their way up after arriving in the U.S. despite being highly qualified.

"By incorporating the additional criteria, we get a much better model for comparison, and I wanted to show that immigrant nurses often have a wealth of transferable skills, are more mobile and adaptable given their experiences practicing in different long-term care settings," he said. "Immigrant nurses are crucial for diversifying the nursing workforce as they bring a different cultural lens, a different racial lens and a different linguistic lens."

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