Why Hospitals Recruit Foreign Nurses

Most are familiar with the U.S. nursing shortage, and we’ve written about the statistics in the past. This shortage drives some hospitals to work with nurse agencies that recruit foreign nurses to staff their hospitals.

But we’ve found that statistics don’t tell the full story. Because of our work, we witness the larger impact of foreign nurses on U.S. hospitals. Foreign nurses not only fill a vacancy, they bring vibrancy to the communities they join.

Capturing this impact was our goal in creating the documentary “Making a Home in Decatur, Illinois” – a story about three international nurses who found a new home in an unlikely place.

Small towns and cities in the U.S. may not be where you’d expect to find a thriving community of international nurses. But that’s exactly what these international nurses have created at Decatur Memorial Hospital in Decatur, Illinois. Shearwater Health partnered with DMH a few years ago to create a new home for over 70 international nurses. This community of nurses has created a significant impact on their workplace, colleagues, community, and family.

During a cold winter week in January of 2020, the Shearwater team spent time documenting the life of three of these nurses to give us a glimpse into what life looks like for an international nurse in the U.S.

The Impact of Foreign Nurses on Hospitals

Research shows that internationally trained nurses on your clinical teams can increase patient safety and quality of care. This is especially true when most international nurses already have years of experience acquired from various hospitals while completing the immigration process.

The positive impact of diversity in hospitals is already known, but recruiting and retaining diversity in nursing can be difficult in practice. We’ve found that an intentional strategy that includes foreign-educated nurses makes it easier to achieve the vision of a more stable, diverse nurse workforce.

As said in the documentary, “[You nurses] are changing Decatur as a city. You’re changing DMH as a hospital. You’re impacting the patients you work with… and you really are having a much bigger impact than you may even realize.”

The Career Impact on Foreign Nurses

The beauty of capturing this experience on video is that it’s easier to see the human impact of foreign nurses working in U.S. hospitals. It’s more than a business strategy for hospitals – it’s a palpable enhancement of the hospital culture and surrounding community.

Many foreign nurses have a low ceiling for career advancement that makes it difficult to grow as a career nurse. This drives some nurses to work with a company like Shearwater to create a career in the U.S. that provides more opportunities and a better future for their families.

As one of the nurses said in the documentary, “We can go anywhere, but what opportunity should we give to our daughter? We both understood that she’d have a really, really good opportunity here.”

Watch the documentary.

If you’re a hospital interested in expanding your recruitment and retention strategy to include international nurses, let us know here.

If you’re an international nurse who’d like to work with Shearwater, visit our application page here.