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The Benefits of Hiring International Healthcare Workers

Posted on Wednesday, March 29, 2017 5:07 AM

Over the past few years – amid an aging population – concerns about how to handle the growing number of Americans who require increased access to healthcare services have reached new heights. Medicare is projected to experience a 30% increase in enrollment by 2020. In addition, the Affordable Care Act will add no less than 30 million new users to the healthcare system in the next few years.

There is a current shortage of healthcare professionals which will only worsen in coming years and decades. The current and predicted healthcare shortages are driven by the following 3 factors: an aging workforce (50% of physicians are 55 or older; the average age of the nurse is 47 years old; both PT and OT have similarly aging workforces), an inadequate educational infrastructure that turns away student applicants for PT, MD and nursing programs (average of faculty in nursing and medical school is over 50 years old), and an aging population where the fastest growing segments of our population are over 65 and over 85.

Part of the solution to this complex problem is to recruit from the outside the U.S. Shari Sandifer, CEO and Founder of Avant Healthcare Professionals, first worked with internationally educated healthcare professionals when she managed home health agencies in mid-1990s. “My experience as an employer of international healthcare professionals is that these professionals are very patient-focused and produce excellent outcomes. For our clients at Avant, the international healthcare professionals we place provide a long-term staffing solution as over 85% of our professionals convert onto the client staff upon completion of their contract assignment.”

Unfortunately, misconceptions about trained professionals acquired from developing countries, like the Philippines – the world’s leading exporter of nurses – abound when, in fact, these healthcare workers are well-educated, highly trained professionals who flourish when properly assimilated into their new work and cultural environments. Below are a few benefits of hiring of international healthcare professionals, who can provide the best, most attainable solution to the United States’ current healthcare shortage crisis.

They speak English fluently and are effective communicators. U.S. immigration law mandates that international healthcare professionals take a language proficiency test. Although it may take a bit of adjustment for many to speak as rapidly as a native speaker or pick up on slang, they are effective communicators and language barriers are not an issue after a little time and patience.

Hiring international professionals is a cost-effective solution to the healthcare shortage crisis and a great way to build a permanent core staff. The healthcare industry is not only currently plagued with a shortage of workers – it also contends with a high turnover rate of U.S.-native professionals. This not only increases recruitment costs over the long-term, but also creates unstable, stressful and often inefficient office environments. By working with a company that is skilled in matching the right professional with a healthcare organization, the retention rate for new, international employees is an astounding 85% for a two-year assignment, which bodes well for organizations seeking stability and qualified additions to a core staff, and makes the investment in a professional healthcare staffing firm worthwhile.

Foreign-born healthcare workers are just as trained, educated and experienced as U.S.-born professionals. We Americans like to think that our healthcare workers are more educated and prepared than most of the world. However, this isn’t always the case. Several countries across the globe offer outstanding schools and training programs, and any reputable recruiter will screen candidates to ensure that they received top-notch education and training on par with the United States. Additionally, most agencies require that international workers have excellent scores on the national licensure exams, such as NCLEX, NPTE and NBCOT.

Their countries have an over-abundance of professionals; ours does not. It’s a common belief that hiring foreign-born employees takes jobs away from Americans. However, in the healthcare industry, this is simply not true. The statistics don’t lie – across the board, from nurses to doctors to physical and occupational therapists – we don’t have enough workers to support current and future needs, nor do we have enough active professionals to train and educate new ones. However, many countries have the reverse problem – too many professionals and not enough available positions. By hiring international healthcare workers, we neither take resources away from other countries nor prevent our own citizens from finding work – we instead solve problems across the board.

Overcoming cultural obstacles

Despite being adept at their practices and more than qualified to work in the United States, it is important to remember that many foreign-born workers who take assignments in this country have never been here before. For this reasons, things that seem simple to us – such as traveling to the nearest grocery store and registering children for school – can be challenging and daunting tasks for international healthcare professionals. Additionally, many might eventually feel homesick for not only their native lands, family and friends, but for their old ways of life, cultural norms and customs.

It is imperative that organizations hiring professionals from other countries not only be aware of this, but also compassionate and patient. Some healthcare recruiters offer clinical transition programs to make this process easier and help acclimate foreign-born workers to the United States. Spearheaded by international healthcare recruiting firm Avant Healthcare Professionals, these types of programs include everything from simple tasks, like cultural sensitivity training, to orientation periods that provide full-service help, from securing housing to social outings, to new candidates. The goal is to not only make workers feel comfortable in their new environments, but to ensure that they are fully prepared to hit the ground running in their clinical settings. And while programs like these are important for any healthcare environment, they are critical for foreign-born home care workers, who must be able to work independently and don’t have the luxury of co-workers to guide them through a new workplace.

The answer to your professional needs

With our healthcare industry buckling under the pressure of too few professionals and too many patients, we’re running out of options. However, there is a solution: turn to educated, trained foreign-born workers. If you’re still unsure or wary about hiring healthcare professionals from other countries, consult with a reputable agency. These companies have teams that are experienced in the recruiting process and can advise you on what it entails, benefits and challenges.

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