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Monday, July 26, 2021 - First of many international nurses arrives as RSFH increases recruitment


The nickname of the first international nurse at Roper St. Francis Healthcare perfectly sums up her disposition: Sunny.

Nalyanate Prasong, a Thailand-born nurse, arrived with a smile last week in the Lowcountry from Germany. She was greeted at Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital with fresh cookies and excited faces. Sunny let everybody know she was ready to work hard.

“I love being a nurse in the ER,” said Sunny, who speaks English, Tai, German and understands Mandarin. “I am down for working — really. I will do my best.”

Sunny is the first of 26 nurses from across the globe who have signed 36-month nursing commitments with Roper St. Francis Healthcare. The international nurses will serve in endoscopy, operating rooms, dialysis, med surge, critical care and the ED throughout the four hospitals

In the face of a nationwide nursing shortage, RSFH is partnering with PassportUSA to fill 40 open positions in the coming months. Vacancies in nursing are projected to continue spreading across the country until 2030, with the South and the West seeing the highest number.

South Carolina is on track to have one of the most severe nurse shortages in the country by 2030 and is estimated to lack roughly 10,000 nurses to meet the growing demand, according to a 2018 report analyzed by RegisteredNursing.org.

RSFH has heard teammate concerns about staffing levels and is taking action to fill positions, said Dr. Chris McLain, senior vice president and chief physician officer.

“There has been no slowing down of recruiting nurses,” Dr. McLain said. “In fact, we have increased efforts to hire more.”

The nurses placed at RSFH from PassportUSA, a leading provider of U.S. careers for internationally-trained RNs, PTs, OTs and medical technologists, have met RSFH requirements to be a RN and will have 16 weeks of orientation. Sunny, for example, will split her time at RSFH’s ERs, spending six weeks at Roper St. Francis Mount Pleasant Hospital, five weeks at BSSF and five weeks at Roper Hospital.

PassportUSA recruits nurses from 61 countries and ensures they are qualified and prepared for life in the United States, going to great lengths such as assigning each nurse with a life coach who helps them find a place to live, secure a vehicle and even locate a church.

“This is an amazing solution and I think it’s going to be very beneficial,” Sherrel Smith, director of nursing services. “These nurses want to live the American dream and we are giving them that opportunity.”

Before her tour of the BSSF ED on July 22, BSSF ED Clinical Manager Kelly Pollard explained to Sunny where she’ll be working and about RSFH’s rich culture.

Sunny listened intently and smiled.

“Quite a journey,” she said. “I love it.”

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