Thrive by IU Health

October 14, 2022

IU Health welcomes international nurses amid nationwide staffing shortages

IU Health North Hospital

IU Health welcomes international nurses amid nationwide staffing shortages

After being a nurse in her home country of Nigeria for several years, Eunice Bolanle Ogundele became one of ten international nurses welcomed into the IU Health Indianapolis Suburban Region this summer.

By Charlotte Stefanski, marketing associate,

Since she was a little girl, Eunice Bolanle Ogundele knew she wanted to be a nurse.

Growing up in Nigeria, Ogundele recalls being sick often as a child, but going to s hospital wasn’t always a traditional practice. Even at a young age, she knew healthcare could be better and more accessible, both for herself and her community.

“That made me say, ‘I want to be a nurse,’” she said.

In 2004, she enrolled in nursing school, and since then, she’s remained in the field. Ogundele graduated with her Bachelor in Nursing from the Obafemi Awolowo University in 2007 and began work as a registered nurse shortly after.

Ogundele first worked in a clinical practice at a private hospital, and from there, she moved on to a larger hospital for a few years and received her emergency room training certificate.

“Through my nursing career, I've been working in more clinical settings, having daily interactions with patients—a majority of them in the emergency room, which is more of a trauma center,” she explained.

After being a nurse in her home country for about 14 years, Ogundele knew she wanted something more.

“The idea of coming to the United States came through social media,” Ogundele said. “I noticed there were more advanced technologies used in the United States, compared to what we have back in my home country.”

The qualities of a nurse, things like compassion and empathy, are universal, she said. But she wanted to take those attributes somewhere new; somewhere that allowed her to improve her clinical skills and develop her career further.

In 2019, Ogundele began researching and completing immigration protocols and requirements. Once she passed those, she began looking for international nursing programs that would help her get started in the U.S.

Eventually, she came across a company called Westways Staffing Services, a nurse-owned, highly experienced nursing registry, specializing in both per diem and travel nursing throughout the United States. 

This August, Ogundele became one of five international nurses to join the team at IU Health North Hospital.

An opportunity to help the nursing shortage

Ogundele isn’t the first international nurse to be welcomed to IU Health. The IU Health Indianapolis Suburban Region (ISR)—which includes North, Saxony, Tipton and West hospitals—is partnering with Westways.

The agency is working with the ISR to hire about 80 international nurses, primarily from African countries, the Philippines and India.  

Carrie Wing, chief nursing officer of IU Health North, said that while the nurses are contracted for a two-year period, the goal is to hire them permanently.  

“It's an amazing opportunity for us to diversify ourselves. I think that it creates camaraderie,” Wing said. “The learning opportunity for us, and for them, is exciting to me. We know that we have a problem to solve, and we can solve it together.”

The process will take about nine to 12 months, with a handful of nurses coming in at a time with the majority going to North and West. 

Typically, the nurses have a few years of experience, mostly in med-surg type care. They are also all fluent in English. 

Prior to coming to IU Health, the international nurses attend a two-week orientation in Texas, where they are trained on the U.S. equivalents to the equipment they used in their native countries. When they arrive in the ISR, they will onboard just like any other new team member. 

“We orient them under the premise of a new graduate, even those that are not new grads,” Wing explained. “We bring them in that way so that we really capture any potential knowledge gaps.”

Wing noted that these nurses were already looking for jobs outside of their home countries. In addition to providing extra training and support, Westways assists them in finding housing and bringing their families to the U.S. In the future, the ISR may look to hire spouses in different roles as families arrive. 

The first group of nurses arrived this August, with five going to North and five to West. Now, there are 13 nurses between IU Health North and West hospitals, with three more arriving this month.

“Our teams are exhausted and there hasn’t really been an end in sight. We feel like this is an opportunity for us to get to that place. It's not going to fix the entire [staffing] problem, but it will give some relief to the teams working well above normal hours,” Wing added. “That, to me, is a positive when it comes to work-life balance and self-care, things that we have really lost with the pandemic.”

A future with IU Health

Since arriving with her husband and two children in August, Ogundele has been working in North’s 5C unit, the post-operation surgical unit.

But before she came to IU Health, Ogundele spent time in Texas receiving training. There, she met other nurses from all over the world, including Brazil, Jordan and Uganda.

“It was different and diverse, for sure,” she said. “I consider some of them my friends and I communicate with some of them still.”

When it came to choosing where she wanted to work, there were several other options across the country, whether it be other hospitals, correctional facilities and more.

With education and research being Ogundele’s main goal, she knew she wanted to work in a hospital setting, and she was also looking for a hospital system with a solid reputation in quality of care. That’s when she came across IU Health.

“IU Health’s mission is to be one of the best healthcare systems, not only in Indiana, but in the nation at large. They also have excellence in education, research and quality of care services to the patient,” Ogundele said. “I think almost all these goals and this vision work with what I had in mind.”

Now that she’s settled in, Ogundele has seen many differences in healthcare between the United States and Nigeria. As she already knew, most of those differences were in technology available to providers.

For example, here, the IV pumps used are generally automated. But in Nigeria, nurses only have gravity IV pumps available.

As an international nurse herself, Ogundele knows there are plenty of positives to this type of experience. The United States, including Indianapolis, is extremely diverse, which means IU Health North’s patients come from unique backgrounds as well.

Already, she’s come across patients from Nigeria, and her background makes it easier to form a connection.

“IU Health’s values are to promote purpose, excellence, compassion and team,” Ogundele noted. “People with different ideas, different cultures, will bring in their ideas in a way that will promote the goal and the vision of IU Health.”

As she continues her career with IU Health, Ogundele hopes to one day earn her master’s degree and contribute to the advancement of healthcare. She thanks her teammates and leaders for welcoming her so warmly to her department.

“Every member in these units has made my stay wonderful,” she said. “I want to continue providing more of my care, to serve these patients.”