CoxHealth looks outside the US to fill nursing vacancies

Some hospitals are looking outside the U.S. to recruit potential nurses as a shortage of qualified candidates continues to plague the industry.

CoxHealth, a health system based in Springfield, Missouri, revealed in June that it would be recruiting nurses from overseas, and over the next year and a half 100 nurses will travel to the U.S. to work for the system, according to an article from the Springfield News-Leader. They will be met by CoxHealth’s new international talent coordinator, who will oversee the transition, and be provided free housing for a month while they explore options for full-time homes, houses of worship, schools for children and other local amenities.

The system’s first international nurses will begin later this month, according to the article, with the rest arriving in waves. Recruiting nurses from foreign countries is just the latest of CoxHealth’s strategies to hire more nurses--the system employees about 2,100 at present, but officials told the newspaper they could hire an additional 600 if enough qualified applicants turn up.

In Missouri, just over 8 percent of nursing jobs remain unfilled, according to the article, a dip from 2015 but still high in comparison to the past decade. Nurse retention is also an issue, with nearly 18 percent of nurses leaving their jobs for another position, according to the article, the highest rate since the Missouri Hospital Association began reporting such data 12 years ago.

“As lucrative as nursing is and as rewarding of a profession as it is, there still aren’t enough people to keep up with it," Andrew Hedgpeth, vice president of human resources for CoxHealth, told the newspaper. "We’re seeing in our society for the first time ever that the generation that’s vacating the workforce into retirement, there aren’t enough people behind to back them.”

Hedgpeth said that the vacant positions are not preventing the system from meeting patient needs, but hiring more nurses would allow CoxHealth to expand.

The nurses CoxHealth is hiring from outside the U.S. are highly qualified, according to the article, as the system is requiring a bachelor’s degree in nursing and three years of experience--with many of the applicants having many more years under their belts. Hedgepeth told the newspaper that the nurse will arrive on green cards and be required to work for CoxHealth for 30 months, but after that window they would be able to leave for another hospital or system.

CoxHealth officials have yet to decide whether the batch of 100 international nurses will be the only group recruited from abroad, according to the article.