Sanford Health creates robust onboarding program to help internationally educated nurses acclimate to working in a US hospital

Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Sanford Health has already onboarded more than 130 of the 800 internationally educated nurses the system is looking to hire to help offset nursing shortage challenges.

Sanford was well into the 18- to 24-month process of recruiting nurses trained outside of the U.S. when Chief Nursing Officer Erica DeBoer, RN, told Becker's last June that the healthcare system was planning to recruit 700 nurses trained in other countries by 2025. 

This month, Ms. DeBoer told Becker's that the count has been increased due to demand in the system's four major hospitals and critical access hospitals. Sanford is using a third-party recruiting company, Connetics USA, to source the nurses from overseas. 

In addition to going through a multistep interviewing process, foreign-educated nurses have to pass an English test and the National Council Licensure Examination before they come to work in U.S. hospitals. The new nurses coming aboard through this program are required to make at least a three-year commitment to Sanford.

Ms. DeBoer said the hospital system has put in place a robust onboarding program that includes getting the foreign nurses acclimated to their new positions and hospital technology they are not familiar with, including electronic health record systems.

The foreign-trained nurses go through a 10- to 12-week orientation period at Sanford with a preceptor who helps them onboard. Sanford is also encouraging mentor relationships between the new nurses, who have only worked in their home countries prior to joining the Sanford team, with existing nurses throughout the hospital system.

At the Sanford Medical Center in Fargo, N.D., the health system is testing out a fellowship program among the new team members. This program, designed to promote a feeling of community between the internationally educated nurses and give them a level of comfort treating patients here, brings nurses together to talk about important hospital issues including cultural competency, being a leader at the bedside, and death and dying, she said.

Ms. DeBoer said Sanford is committed to creating a "circle of support" for all team members, but especially its internationally educated nurses who have been coming from the Philippines, the Arabian Peninsula and several countries in Africa. This includes assisting them with housing, driver's licenses and locating ethnically diverse groceries.

About 75 percent of the new hires are bringing their families with them to the U.S., Ms. DeBoer said, so in addition to the "dynamics of learning a new healthcare system, they have to be able to support their families so they can fit in with the community."

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