International nurses help ease nursing shortages at Finger Lakes Health

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — For months, News10NBC has been reporting on severe staffing shortages across our health care community. Hospitals and nursing homes are particularly desperate for nurses and many of them are expanding the geographical reach of their recruitment.

There was a shortage of nurses before the pandemic and the problem has only gotten worse.

“With the retiring nurses, with burnout, nurses staying home with their children… there is just a wealth of reasons,” explained Ardelle Bigos, the Chief Nursing Officer at Finger Lakes Health.

In 2019 just before the pandemic, Finger Lakes Health which runs Geneva General and Soldiers and Sailors hospital in Penn Yan started working with an international staffing agency.

“Most of the nurses that come from the international agencies have 6 to 10 years minimum experience, they are BSN prepared also,” Bigos said.

They are also prepared to make at least a 3 year commitment to a hospital in the United States.

“We set up the interviews via zoom and we have those conversations along with the resumes that support their clinical experience… then they start the process through immigration and visas through the agency,” Bigos explained, “the nurses then come into their training organization which is located in Florida for this particular agency and they start that program to acclimate them into the United States.”

There are currently 20 international nurses working at Geneva General and Soldiers and Sailors, 11 more will be arriving in the Finger Lakes region over the next few months.

“The majority of our international registered nurses are from the Philippines but they also come to us from the UK, from India, from the Caribbean so it across all different countries. It really helps with the diversity and the culture sharing… I think it’s great for the staff, they learn from one another and I think that’s where the most opportunities are,” Bigos explained.

The program has been so successful in helping to fill major nursing shortages, Finger Lakes Health is getting calls from other local hospitals systems interested in learning more.

The federal government recently doubled the number of green cards available this year for foreign professionals, including nurses, who want to move to the United States.