As the nationwide nursing shortage persists, health care facilities across the country are becoming increasingly likely to rely on foreign-trained nurses to fill staffing needs, says UNLV nursing professor Yu (Philip) Xu. Xu is one of only a few researchers in the nation who study how this population adjusts in the American workforce.
Xu, a foreign-trained nurse himself, notes that foreign-trained nurses comprise more than 15 percent of Nevada's nursing workforce, and that number is expected to grow. According to Xu, most foreign-trained nurses are very capable of succeeding here, but many have trouble adjusting to American culture.
"Hospitals spend upwards of $10,000 per individual to recruit foreign nurses, yet most often there is no specific orientation or cultural training for them," says Xu. "Many do not succeed and are sent back to their home countries - a blow for hospitals, nurses, and ultimately patients. In a field where good communication is a necessity, there has to be a better way."
To address this problem, Xu and a team of UNLV researchers developed "Speak for Success," the nation's first research-based, comprehensive language and communication training program for currently employed foreign-trained nurses.
The program, which is funded by a $300,000 grant from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, is based on Xu's past and current research. It consists of two interrelated components: a 10-week course with a certified speech pathologist, followed by a series of interactive workshops on practical communication skills, including language use and language variations in the American health care setting.
"Nursing requires constant communication with doctors, co-workers, patients, and families, making communication-focused transition programs for foreign nurses vital for improving both patient safety and quality of care," says Xu. "With the nursing shortage expected to continue, we need to find ways to reduce turnover among the nurses we already have in the profession and to make certain that all nurses entering the American workforce are adequately prepared to succeed."