NEW ORLEANS (CN) – Despite a nationwide shortage of 126,000 nurses that has hospitals and states recruiting nurses overseas, Louisiana has barred noncitizens from being licensed as practical nurses there – a restriction that a South African nurse, already licensed in Texas, challenges as unconstitutional.
Esthee Van Staden sued the Louisiana Board of Practical Nurse Examiners in Federal Court. She says the state law violates the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Van Staden’s license is current in Texas and she says, “She wished to work in Louisiana in the field in which she was trained and would be doing so but for the unconstitutional restrictions imposed by the statutory bar against her granting a license to any alien.”
The U.S. Bureau of Labor reported recently that the U.S. needs 126,000 more nurses, and the deficit is expected to grow annually at least until 2016.
Van Staden already has filed an I-485 “Application to Adjust to Permanent Resident Status” – a process that can take years.
She graduated at the top of her class in December 2006, with a 4.0 grade point average from North Harris Montgomery Community College District, an accredited nursing college in Texas. She passed the NCLEX-PN exam in Texas and received her Texas Vocational Nursing License in January 2007.
In February 2007 she moved to Louisiana, applied to the Louisiana State Board for Practical Nurses, and was denied. Louisiana requires a licensed practical nurse to “be a citizen of the United States or have taken out the first citizenship papers.”
“First citizenship papers” are immigration form N-300 “Declaration of Intent to Become a U.S. Citizen,” for which Van Staden is not yet eligible because she is not yet a permanent legal resident.
She filed her I-485 more than two years ago. Processing of applications for immigration slowed considerably under the Bush administration, with many applications thrown into what appears to be a permanent limbo.
Despite the state law, Louisiana hospitals like New Orleans’ Touro Infirmary have amped up their signing bonuses to try to attract nurses. Touro recently kicked off a campaign to hire 60 nurses in 60 days. Recruits who agree to work for the hospital for 2 years have been offered $12,000. Nationwide, some hospitals offer incentive prizes, such as flat-screen TVs to eligible nursing applicants who agree to come in for an interview.
Esthee Van Staden wants the Louisiana law enjoined as unconstitutional, and costs. She is represented by Louis Koerner Jr. of Houma.