The benefits and hurdles that travel along

Nurse Leader Insider, October 16, 2007

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They travel over the border from Canada and across the world from China. But no matter where they were born and educated, international nurses are looking at U.S. hospitals as a place to call home. And this could mean great news in light of the country's looming nursing shortage.

There are many advantages that come with bringing international nurses to the workplace, says Bette Case Di Leonardi, PhD, RN-BC, an independent nursing consultant in Chicago, and these nurses bring more to the table than just an increase in the department's staffing numbers.

The first step for educators after the hiring of a foreign-born nurse, says Case Di Leonardi, is assessment. And because educators must be particularly thorough in their assessment of these nurses, it is increasingly important to avoid merely asking whether they have performed a certain task or demonstrated a particular skill. Yes or no questions lend themselves to misunderstandings, she says.

It is also useful to ask the nurses about their typical day in their previous practice setting to find out about the differences in practice and in the scope of practice expectations.

Another important role for educators is to make sure new nurses obtain the basic skill sets for the field and the facility in order to gain the complete confidence of their peers.

Although it's vital that the international nurses become competent in these technical skills, it's also very helpful for them to learn from the experiences of their fellow nurses, and vice versa. "Have staff members get to know the nurse and the nurse's previous experience," says Case Di Leonardi.

As staff members begin learning about the new nurse, make them aware of any cultural differences that might arise in the working environment.

Additionally, educators needs to avoid training all international nurses as a whole entity, as gaps in learning can vary from culture to culture depending on where the nurse originated.

Editor's Note: This excerpt was adapted from the article, "Venturing into new territory," featured in the Reading Room on HCPro's new online resource center,!

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