Successfully Integrating International Nurses into Your Staff

Diversity in staffing is known to produce higher quality work and increase productivity, overall. More important, diversity makes your recruitment and retention efforts easier, according to a Glassdoor study. Two-thirds of the respondents in the study said that a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. Glassdoor also found that 57% of people surveyed think their company should be doing more to increase diversity in its workforce.

For healthcare, diversity is highly desired as it has a direct impact on care delivery. International healthcare professionals are more equipped to care for minority patients as they understand diverse backgrounds and can better communicate bedside shift reports to them, according to an American Nurses Association study.

Recently, eight nurse leaders from across the country gathered to participate in the Avant Healthcare Professionals CNO Roundtable to share their thoughts on the challenges, solutions and opportunities that they face. While there, we asked them how to successfully integrate international RNs into their staff. Below are the suggestions.

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Address Staff and Peers. It’s essential to inform your staff that an international nurse will be joining the team. Take the chance to educate your staff on the nurse’s culture and background prearrival of the new nurse.

Some countries’ medical terms do not translate accurately in English. Procedures may also vary depending on the country, so educating your staff on the clinical differences is a must. Your staff will be understanding and more willing to help when they are aware of these differences.

Assigning an ethnically diverse preceptor for the new nurse is also very helpful in the onboarding process. If this is the first international nurse on your staff, designate nurse leader support for the international nurse so that they have a “go to person” to depend on when needed.

“We have had a lot of success with international nurses as part of our staffing solution. Understanding what environment these nurses come from and then acclimating them to our environment has been key for our retention program. Our other international nurses also help with that transition in prefacing them.” – Caroline Stewart, CNO, Citrus Memorial Hospital

Address Patients. The patient experience is the most important aspect of care. Hospital leadership should encourage unit managers and charge nurses to educate patients and the patients’ families on their international nurse’s education, preparation and experience. Therefore, it’s crucial that the patient understands that they are receiving the best care they can get no matter who their nurse is.

Eliminating nurse-change requests from patients will reinforce that the international nurse is a part of the team and will make the patient feel more comfortable about their care.

Address the Community. Whether you live in a diverse community or not, discussing the need for international nurses is important. Reach out to key influencers in the community such as the mayor, the Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club, local reporters, etc. Inform them of the nursing shortage and explain how international nurses bring value to the community. The goal is to have political backing for a care environment that welcomes diversity.

One of our partners at Great Plains Regional Medical Center met with the mayor and the school board to introduce diversity education to the North Platte, NE community. These meetings serve as a catalyst to successfully integrate internationals into the hospital as well as the community.

Most important, the school board should be aware of international families in the community and be prepared on how to integrate these students prearrival. Bullying can be an issue in grade schools which is why the school board should be involved in these meetings.

Overall Goal. Involving your staff, patients and the community in diversity education serves to create a welcoming home for international nurses and internationals, in general. These nurses are looking to be a part of the community as permanent residents. The overall goal is to improve patient care with a staff that better represents the population.  Diversifying your community can start with the health care system. Considering international nurses at your hospital is a great start.

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Shari Dingle (Sandifer) Costantini

Shari Dingle (Sandifer) Costantini
Shari Dingle (Sandifer) Costantini, RN, MBA, is founder and CEO of Avant Healthcare Professionals. She has 29 years of experience in strategic leadership, nursing and international nurse staffing.

Shari Dingle (Sandifer) Costantini

Jennifer David

Jennifer David
Jennifer David is vice president of clinical operations for Avant Healthcare Professionals. An RN, BSN and MHA, she has 43 years' experience in nursing.

Shari Dingle (Sandifer) Costantini

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