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ABA Health eSource
 June 2006 Volume 2 Number 10

Chair's Column
by Gregory L. Pemberton, Ice Miller, Indianapolis, IN

Gregory L. PembertonThis is a note I did not want to write. I have tried to keep these pieces light and upbeat. If I have succeeded, it is in large part because that is my general demeanor and outlook on life. "You can choose to be positive" has always been at the root of my message. I am struggling with that thought at the moment.

I have been reading in the popular press about the immigration debate in Washington, DC. One item that got my attention is the proposal to raise if not eliminate the limits on nursing immigration. This is an apparent response to the nursing shortage which has long plagued our healthcare system. It is supported by folks who want nurses to be welcomed to United States soil if they are inclined to come.

A counter position has also come to light. Some have argued (recently as an op ed piece in The New York Times) that this provision places the fragile healthcare systems (if some of them can even be labeled that) of certain countries at risk. The argument proceeds that many nurses in English-speaking countries will be lured to the U.S. due to the harsh economic conditions in their countries compared to the relative prosperity of our country. The editorial suggests that the U.S. should not shirk the responsibility of training and educating our own as nurses in the guise of immigration reform.

I do not know how you, gentle reader, come out in this discussion. But the general topic has become personal in the last few weeks. Two loved ones have recently experienced hospital and skilled nursing care. I am a son and son-in-law for a parent in a healthcare institution. I have not been on the consumer and family member role side of healthcare very much. My wife had a freak fall and injury two years ago, but she was strong and fully expected to recover. Gratefully, she has. But my two aged parents are in need of rehabilitation to walk again and thus to regain independent living. It is sobering to have to depend on others to make this possible. I find myself in that uncomfortable position of wanting the best for my loved one, but not knowing what the near future will bring.

I (and my parents) are now relying on nurses and other health professionals to make things right. We just experienced the staffing challenges of a holiday weekend in a skilled nursing facility—but as a family member, not as a health lawyer who sees the real professional challenges faced by facility administration and professional staff. How do I now feel about immigration reform and foreign trained nurses coming to the U.S.? I candidly cannot answer that one. The emotion and uncertainty clouds the clear thinking I would normally bring to bear. I hope to write an upbeat ending. But that is just my hope now. Take care.