A registered nurse helps a nursing home resident with his medications
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Long-term care providers are calling on the Department of Labor to improve the process it uses to determine prevailing wages for foreign physical therapists and registered nurses as a way to ease the ongoing workforce crisis.

A coalition of providers issued the request to the Department of Labor’s National Prevailing Wage Center in a letter dated Friday. The group includes the American Health Care Association, LeadingAge, the National Association for the Support of Long Term Care and AMDA-The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.

It comes as providers push for more access to foreign-born workers, especially through additional and faster immigration avenues.

The prevailing wage rate is the average wage paid to similarly employed workers in a specific occupation in an area of intended employment, the Department of Labor’s website explains. Employers find the wage rate in their area by submitting a request to the DOL’s wage center or other legitimate sources of information, like the Online Wage Library. 

Physical therapists and RNs are “Schedule A” occupations since there aren’t a sufficient number of U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified and available to fill them, the department has said. Employers who want to hire a person for these jobs aren’t required to conduct a test of the labor market or apply for a permanent labor certification with the DOL. 

They instead must apply for “Schedule A” designation by submitting an application for permanent labor certification, according to the agency. 

“However, we believe there should be a more streamlined process for wage determinations for registered nurse and physical therapist positions,” the coalition wrote.

The group argued that the agency should create a separate category for “Schedule A” instead of including it in with the permanent labor certification processing queue. 

“This is warranted because of the occupation shortage and the relative simplicity in the wage analysis needed for registered nurse occupations,” the group wrote.  “The prevailing wage determination is the one bottleneck that delays employers in filing an Immigrant Petition for registered nurses. Creating a separate queue and a more reasonable timeframe for wage determinations for registered nurses would not only help the healthcare industry but would also benefit the DOL.”