'It's the right thing to do': Ochsner Health to employ Ukrainian nurses as founding partner of new initiative

Ochsner Health, Louisiana’s largest nonprofit academic health system, will sponsor two-year employment for eight nurses from Ukraine this fall. 

The Passport2Liberty initiative, of which Ochsner is a founding partner, is led by CGFNS International, which assesses and transfers foreign credentials to the U.S. and has partnered with Ochsner for years. As part of the latest program, Ochsner will offer assistance to the nurses’ families to transition to life in the U.S. They will be based in Louisiana. 

The American Hospital Association and the American Organization of Nursing Leadership are helping coordinate the program and promote the effort among other health systems. Additional participants thus far include Global Nurse Partners, a nurse placement agency, and the Catholic Health Association. 

"Not only will this program be part of our international RN recruitment strategy, but it's the right thing to do,” Ochsner CEO Warner Thomas said in a press release. 

The initiative aims to alleviate challenges faced by Ukrainian nurses in a time of crisis, CGFNS CEO Franklin A. Shaffer said in the announcement. “Safe, orderly, regular migration is a human right,” he said in the announcement. “The global community has a responsibility to ensure that refugees in all situations are aptly supported and empowered.”

Ochsner has been exploring opportunities with international nurses for years to address workforce challenges, Tracey Schiro, Ochsner's executive vice president and chief risk and human resources officer, said in an interview.

Recently, “we’ve re-engaged and have made significant headway looking at having international nurses join,” Schiro said. In addition to the eight Ukrainian nurses, Ochsner anticipates another 120 international nurses this fall. The health system has existing resource groups for international employees, through which mentorship is also available. 

The partner organizations involved in the Ukraine initiative hope to expand the program to encompass more interested Ukrainian nurses, more sponsoring health systems and potentially other types of staff. Nurses interested in applying must go through a visa interview and several exams, including one to assess English speaking ability and one to get a license as a U.S. registered nurse. 

“There's a lot of families in need,” Lee Youngblood, director of system nursing strategy at Ochsner, said in an interview. “We do feel like the families are going to be growing in numbers.” The health system hopes others will follow in its footsteps and participate in the program.