State's Nursing Shortage Growing More Critical

JANUARY 3, 2005 - Posted at 8:58 a.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK, AR - It may be more difficult for Arkansas to fill its need of nurses with foreign workers at the beginning of this new year.

The U.S. State Department no longer allows so-called fast track work permits to be issued to nurses in China, India and Philippines.

The permits reduced the time it took for nurses from the three countries to get work permits.  The slowdown comes at a time when about 12 percent of nursing positions at Arkansas hospitals are vacant.

State Senator Brenda Gullett, who headed a study on the nursing shortage, reporeted recently that nursing schools aren't keeping up with the demand.  Last year 793 nurses graduated and were licensed in Arkansas, compared to more than 1,900 that will be needed.

Officials with the state nursing board also said that at least 30 nurses from India who were scheduled to work in Arkansas hospitals also may be caught up in the immigration process.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)