Shortage of nurses inspires school overseas

An international nursing school opened in St. Kitts.
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts (AP) -- People like Kate Zajdel are desperately needed amid a worldwide shortage of nurses that is provoking crises from the bitter political feud in California to a cancellation of lifesaving operations for children in Ireland.
Yet she was among tens of thousands of qualified applicants turned away by U.S. nursing programs last year because there are not enough teachers or space. The dilemma brought the 22-year-old New Yorker to a new international nursing school in the Caribbean country of St. Kitts and Nevis.
"I got put on a waiting list at four community colleges," Zajdel said. "I decided that instead of waiting, I would come here. ... I will actually be able to save lives."
American entrepreneur Robert Ross inaugurated the International University of Nursing on Wednesday, inspired by staffing shortages that are forcing nurses to work overtime in hospitals from the United States to Japan.
200-student enrollment
The $10 million institution, surrounded by sugar cane fields and overlooking the sea, accepted 200 students for the fall semester and aims to enroll 3,000 by 2008. Tuition for the 79-week program is $16,200 and students have to make their own living arrangements. After about 45 weeks here, the students will do 24 weeks of clinical work at affiliated U.S. colleges.
Zajdel joined a class of 24, including a Filipino soap opera writer looking for a new purpose in life and an engaged Egyptian couple desperate to work in the United States.
The school prepares students to take licensing exams to work as registered nurses in the United States, promising to lure foreign students eager to fill a shortage that the American Nurses Association expects to reach 275,000 by 2010.
U.S. nursing programs rejected more than 125,000 qualified applicants last year because they did not have enough slots, according to the New York-based National League for Nursing, which estimates the United States needs triple the 20,000 nursing teachers it has.
Tough decisions
"Every day nurses are making decisions about which patients to go and see first," said Cheryl Peterson, an analyst for the American Nurses Association. "Who is the sickest? Do I have the time to sit and talk them?"
The story echoes around the globe.
In Ireland, a 2-year-old girl died in 2003 one day after her heart operation was canceled because no nurses were available. The same hospital, Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Dublin, apologized last October for canceling two other operations.
Yet Ireland has one of the best nurse-to-population ratios in the world -- almost 14,000 nurses per 1 million people, according to a 2000 study.

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