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P.R. NURSES CAN SOLVE V.I. PROBLEM, SENATORS TOLD

April 15, 2003 – Importing nurses from Puerto Rico could greatly cut down on costs currently incurred by the territory's hospitals in hiring contractual personnel from the mainland, the Senate Health, Hospitals and Human Services Committee was told Monday.
The move, however, would require that the territory's nurse licensure board implement existing provisions of the V.I. Code making the examinations the nurses take in Puerto Rico valid in the Virgin Islands.
Roy L. Schneider Hospital's chief executive officer, Rodney Miller, called the nursing shortage one of the most "critical" issues affecting that both that St. Thomas institution and Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix.
Contract nurses, Miller said, cost about $100,000 each per year, compared to only $50,000 for permanent staff nurses. "With this period of limited financial resources," he said, "we simply can no longer afford" to invest in temporary contract nurses.
Last year, he said, Schneider Hospital spent about $5 million on contract nurses.
Miller said Schneider Hospital has launched several initiatives, including a new nurse graduate program. Nurses who have graduated from college but not yet taken or passed the nursing exam can work in the hospital under the guidance of a trained nurse "preceptor" to gain experience they need to pass the exam.
He said six participants began the program in March. Upon successful completion of the program, they will be offered permanent positions.
Recruiting nurses from Puerto Rico, Miller said, also is a promising way to fill essential staff positions. The neighboring island's nurses "possess nursing degrees from accredited schools, have extensive experience and are licensed in Puerto Rico," he said. However, they have been unable to work in the Virgin Islands or on the U.S. mainland because Puerto Rico uses a Spanish-language exam that is not deemed equivalent to the locally administered exam.
Miller said more than 80 "well-qualified" nurses from Puerto Rico have expressed serious interest in coming to work in the Virgin Islands. He said Puerto Rico does not have the same kind of shortage seen here, and that salaries there are much lower than in the Virgin Islands.
The licensure board is working to implement provisions that would enable the nurses to work in the territory without having to take the local exam, Miller said. "If successful," he said, "this will represent a tremendous opportunity to alleviate the critical nursing shortage that we are experiencing and significantly reduce our reliance on contractual staff."
Miller said Florida has enacted legislation to allow Puerto Rico's nurses to work in that state and that more than 650 nurses have taken advantage of the opportunity.
"Without well-trained physicians and nurses, our hospitals will suffer — and, more importantly, our people will suffer," Miller said.
Committee members at Monday's hearing were the chair, Sen. Douglas Canton; and Sens. Norman Jn Baptiste, Luther Renee and Raymond "Usie" Richards.

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April 15, 2003 - Importing nurses from Puerto Rico could greatly cut down on costs currently incurred by the territory's hospitals in hiring contractual personnel from the mainland, the Senate Health, Hospitals and Human Services Committee was told Monday.
The move, however, would require that the territory's nurse licensure board implement existing provisions of the V.I. Code making the examinations the nurses take in Puerto Rico valid in the Virgin Islands.
Roy L. Schneider Hospital's chief executive officer, Rodney Miller, called the nursing shortage one of the most "critical" issues affecting that both that St. Thomas institution and Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix.
Contract nurses, Miller said, cost about $100,000 each per year, compared to only $50,000 for permanent staff nurses. "With this period of limited financial resources," he said, "we simply can no longer afford" to invest in temporary contract nurses.
Last year, he said, Schneider Hospital spent about $5 million on contract nurses.
Miller said Schneider Hospital has launched several initiatives, including a new nurse graduate program. Nurses who have graduated from college but not yet taken or passed the nursing exam can work in the hospital under the guidance of a trained nurse "preceptor" to gain experience they need to pass the exam.
He said six participants began the program in March. Upon successful completion of the program, they will be offered permanent positions.
Recruiting nurses from Puerto Rico, Miller said, also is a promising way to fill essential staff positions. The neighboring island's nurses "possess nursing degrees from accredited schools, have extensive experience and are licensed in Puerto Rico," he said. However, they have been unable to work in the Virgin Islands or on the U.S. mainland because Puerto Rico uses a Spanish-language exam that is not deemed equivalent to the locally administered exam.
Miller said more than 80 "well-qualified" nurses from Puerto Rico have expressed serious interest in coming to work in the Virgin Islands. He said Puerto Rico does not have the same kind of shortage seen here, and that salaries there are much lower than in the Virgin Islands.
The licensure board is working to implement provisions that would enable the nurses to work in the territory without having to take the local exam, Miller said. "If successful," he said, "this will represent a tremendous opportunity to alleviate the critical nursing shortage that we are experiencing and significantly reduce our reliance on contractual staff."
Miller said Florida has enacted legislation to allow Puerto Rico's nurses to work in that state and that more than 650 nurses have taken advantage of the opportunity.
"Without well-trained physicians and nurses, our hospitals will suffer -- and, more importantly, our people will suffer," Miller said.
Committee members at Monday's hearing were the chair, Sen. Douglas Canton; and Sens. Norman Jn Baptiste, Luther Renee and Raymond "Usie" Richards.

Publisher's note : Like the St. John Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much -- and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice ... click here.