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Faced with nursing shortage, this St. Louis hospital is looking for workers abroad

The program is in response to the nursing shortage in America.

ST. LOUIS — The nursing shortage in America has north St. Louis County’s Christian Hospital thinking outside of the box and outside the border for solutions.

Christian Hospital is employing nurses from foreign countries.

The hospital contracts with recruiters, who provide the nurses. The BJC HealthCare facility began international recruiting efforts in 2018. Christian has contracted with 56 international nurses. Officials said at least 15 of them have converted to full-time employment upon completion of the contract with the agency that placed them, initially.

5 on Your Side met with four registered nurses from the Philippines.

“I worked in the Philippines since I graduated in 2007, for three years,” Marbie Adan said. “But I also worked in Saudi Arabia for five years. In the Philippines, we’re on paper charting. But the resources there are not enough for patients and for nurses.”

“I can say that the biggest issue is always the language barrier,” C.J. Valino said. “Just like Marbie, I just learned to speak Arabic while working in Saudi Arabia, because they’re not used to speaking English.”

Sheryl Santillan said, “The locals here, the slang, or should I say - the accent - is the issue. And the technology, especially the equipment we have to learn how to use to take care of our patients.”

“I think it would be too hard without a placement agency,” Shena Macawili said. “That’s how the process started for us. They walked us through everything, like requirements and placement.”

Christian Hospital Emergency Room and Critical Care Director Brian Shaw said there are obvious questions in a scenario like this.

“Does intensive care in one country mean intensive care in another?” Shaw said. “What kind of experience do they have? What types of patients? And then, what type of equipment?”

But Shaw added that the international nursing program is working.

“It’s amazing,” Shaw said. “It’s been very interesting to get a very intimate, global view of healthcare. What they’re bringing is experience from resource-depleted countries, from the actual hands-on piece. It’s much more than the equipment they know how to use.”

Christian Hospital Step Down Manager Amy Marchesi said, “We really hope to be able to convert them or retain them on staff. I think I’ve had a conversation with every single one of them and their hope is to be able to retain as full-time nurses once their contractual end.”

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