MEDIA CONTACT: Susan Feinberg
FAU Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing Launches Training Program for Foreign Nurses
BOCA RATON , FL (March 6, 2007) - Neeraj Kumari dreamed about launching a nursing career in the United States for a long time. She worked as a nurse in India for more than four years, but wanted a better-paying job that would allow her to take on a more active role in patient care. She hesitated, fearing that she lacked the practical knowledge and skills to successfully make the transition. The prospect of leaving her family and friends thousands of miles behind and being alone in a strange country was daunting.
“I come from a country where doctors have primary responsibility for providing health care,” says Kumari. “Although I have strong nursing skills and experience, my knowledge about the American system of health care and how to perform certain nursing functions was limited.”
Kumari learned about a special training program offered by Medical Staffing Network (MSN) and the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) designed to help foreign nurses adapt to working and living in the United States. She accepted a position as a surgical nurse at a hospital in California and enrolled in the training program based at FAU’s College of Nursing in Boca Raton, FL.
At first, the rigorous, eight-day program was overwhelming. Kumari had to get up-to-speed on the skills and knowledge she needed to work in a radically different health care environment. After completing the program, she is confident about her ability to succeed in her new job.
“I learned on a patient simulator about heart and lung sounds and worked hard on my communication skills,” said Kumari. “I’m not afraid of making mistakes on patients anymore. I wish all nurses from my country would get this kind of training before they start working in hospitals. It’s a good place to begin.”
The critical shortage of registered nurses in the United States has led many employers to recruit foreign nurses to fill the ever-widening staff gap. There are currently 126,000 vacant nursing positions in the United States, and the Department of Health and Human Services predicts this number will rise to one million by 2010. With the aging of the baby boomers, that trend is likely to persist for many years.
The process of adjusting to a strange culture and mastering new clinical practices and technology can be very intimidating for foreign nurses. They often have little or no support as they make the transition to living and working in this country, which can affect their ability to perform their jobs.
To meet this need, MSN and the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing at FAU decided to create a training program for foreign nurses. Terry Eggenberger, an instructor at the College of Nursing, developed a telephone survey and interviewed a number of nurses from a variety of countries and nursing specialties who had lived and worked in the U.S. from six months to two years. After reviewing the data, she worked with MSN to design a curriculum that would help foreign nurses integrate successfully into patient care teams.
The six nurses from India who were selected to participate in the program were carefully pre-screened. All of them practiced nursing in their own country for at least three years, and many had experience in critical care, pediatrics and oncology. They had to refine their written and verbal English skills and successfully complete written competency testing in their area of expertise before being placed in long-term hospital assignments. All of the nurses had accepted positions at hospitals in California.
The training program at the College of Nursing provided a combination of didactic and hands-on learning. The nurses attended mini-seminars on critical thinking and pharmacology, and engaged in discussions about unfamiliar health care issues such as health insurance and managed care. They practiced head-to-toe assessment of heart and lung sounds on patient simulators. They learned how to communicate effectively with physicians and methods for non-verbal communication with patients.
The foreign nurses also met with the nursing managers and directors who will supervise them in their new positions. “Hospitals have a huge job of trying to integrate foreign nurses into nursing practice and American culture,” said Pat Donohoe, chief nursing officer at MSN. “These meetings gave them more insight as to what resources nurses will need to get up- to-speed. The opportunity to form these bonds was helpful for the nurses.”
Eggenberger said that the program enhanced the skills and confidence of the nurses. “We gave them an arsenal of tools to help them to adapt and achieve successful patient outcomes,” she said.
Florida Atlantic University’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing is committed to nurturing the wholeness of persons and environment through caring.