Monday, April 08, 2019
by Scott Ragan • firstname.lastname@example.org and Bret Berigan • email@example.com
BJH, CH | Looking out the window of her patient’s room at Barnes-Jewish Hospital Jan. 11, Olusola (Priscilla) Olatipe, RN, BSN, saw the first flakes of snow falling that would end in a 10-inch snowfall for the St. Louis area. As a native of Nigeria, it was the first snow she had ever seen.
While she thought it was beautiful, she realized she would need to drive home on snow-covered streets at the end of her shift.
“Everyone told me, ‘Just take it slow and you’ll do fine,’” Olatipe said. “I was so proud of myself, I took some video and showed it to my husband and a friend.”
That friend was fellow nurse Elizape (Liza) Panis, RN, BSN, who is from the Philippines, and lives in the same apartment complex as Olatipe.
Both nurses work on the medicine unit 14400/500 at BJH and are among about 25 international nurses whom BJC has hired in the past year. In response to an ongoing shortage of nurses in the Midwest, BJC has been piloting this program in the medicine units at BJH and Christian Hospital, and is now looking at clinical specialty areas as well.
Joy Avelino, RN, BSN, from the Philippines, also made the transition last year, working as a staff nurse at
CH for the past eight months.
“I get to meet a lot of different people and everyone has been so helpful,” says Avelino. “Preceptors (trainers) and nurse managers have been very supportive and helpful, making us feel very welcomed.”
The nurses come from a variety of countries: the Philippines, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Jamaica, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda and others. BJC recruits these nurses in partnership with an agency specializing in locating nurses outside the U.S. with the appropriate level of experience and skills to match openings required by its clients.
The agency also helps nurses complete the legal steps to work and live in the U.S. and the necessary professional licensing, and conducts an English fluency exam. It gathers all of its newly hired nurses at its facilities in Florida, where they undergo five weeks of clinical evaluation and training (skill labs, simulation, critical thinking) to acclimate them to care delivery in American hospitals and to verify their competencies.
A portion of the training helps recruits with the cultural transition to living and working in America (banking, housing, child care, holidays, credit cards, obtaining a driver’s license, etc.).
Agency staff maintain frequent contact with their international nurses for years after their arrival in the U.S. to assure the transition is going smoothly. They also contact clinical managers in the nurses’ units to assess their satisfaction and to address any issues.
“We have been very impressed with the nurses who have joined our team,” says Jill Sauer, RN, a nurse manager at Christian Hospital. “They are great team players and very experienced in their clinical knowledge. We couldn’t be happier to have them join our team.”
Why the United States?
What causes a nurse to move halfway around the world for a job?
Panis, who worked at a hospital in the Philippines and then as an OR scrub nurse in Abu Dabi, was attracted to the U.S. by the opportunity to grow professionally.
“The tough part for me is being away from my family,” she says, “but nurses can do so much more here. There’s much more specialization, and nurses here are well compensated compared to other countries.”
Andrew Mulongo, RN, a native of Kenya who joined BJH medicine unit 7900 in June, says he followed a long-term dream to live in the U.S.
“I’ve dreamed of moving to America since a friend of mine visited here and came back with lots of stories,”
he says. “I’ve learned there are no limitations here. I love it because you can grow professionally and they provide you with everything — great equipment, facilities, any medicines your patients need.”
Contrasts with American medicine
The nurses are acclimating to the differences in the way medicine is practiced here as compared to their home countries. They characterize American patients as much more knowledgeable about their health and aware of their rights and choices.
“They also ask a lot of personal questions that no one in Nigeria would ask,” says Olatipe, “like ‘How long have you worked here?’ and ‘Are you married?’”
The nurses praise American medicine’s emphasis on planning for a patient’s discharge on the day the patient is admitted, and would like to see the practice
“It helps us think beyond only a patient’s health needs,” says Olatipe.
All nurses are enjoying the support they’ve received from their new teams, both professionally and socially. There have been trips to Forest Park, Cardinals games and Meramec Caverns organized by the teams, and the hospitals have provided information about neighborhood amenities, like grocery stores carrying international foods.
“I was amazed by the welcome I received on my first day,” says Mulongo. “They kept asking about my social life, and they’ve been there to support me whether I am working or not.”
Based on early results, BJC expects to hire additional international nurses.
“We don’t view this as a final solution to the nursing shortage we’re facing in the Midwest, by any means,”
says Andrea Lampert, BJC vice president of talent strategies. “It’s just one strategy, and, as it proves to be a ‘value add’ in terms of clinical care and our workplace, we will be excited to continue welcoming international nurses to BJC.”
Number of views (730)/Comments (4)
4/9/2019 8:24 AM
Wow, this is awesome!
4/9/2019 12:34 PM
We thoroughly enjoy working with Liza, Priscilla, Andrew and the other nurses here from the international nurse program. They are amazing people and great nurses. As a team we are learning so much from them and I hope we are providing a wonderful experience here at BJH for them as well.
4/10/2019 12:28 PM
I love it
4/15/2019 10:09 PM
I WORK WITH THESE YOUNG LADIES ON 14400 AND THEY ARE AWESOME, THEY WORK WELL WITH EVERYONE HERE ON THE FLOOR EVERYONE SEEMS TO ENJOY WORKING WITH THEM AS WELL, WELL DONE BJC.