Florida Hospitals Recruit From Philippines Amid Nurse Shortage

A Florida hospital will be hiring about 50 nurses and at least six medical technicians from the Philippines between now and early 2023, as the country faces a nationwide shortage of qualified healthcare workers.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the crisis in the U.S. health sector, with a severe shortage of nurses announced in 2012 and estimated to continue until 2030, according to a 2017 study by Walden University.

A study by the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) in California estimated that 1.2 million new registered nurses (RNs) will be needed by 2030 to meet the growing need for specialized care in the U.S.

 Sarasota Memorial Healthcare System
A Google Map screengrab of the Sarasota Memorial in Florida. The hospital will be hiring about 50 nurses and at least six medical technicians from the Philippines between now and early 2023. Getty

The Sarasota Memorial Healthcare System (SMH) is one of the largest public-health organizations in Florida, with two hospitals. According to its website, the Sarasota Memorial is also Sarasota County's largest employer, hiring more than 8,500 staff.

In 2021 alone, the hospital took on 2,349 new staff, according to local newspaper the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

A spokesperson from the SMH told the newspaper that 70 percent of the new staff hired last year were nurses or clinical personnel, while the other 30 percent composed of hospitality or frontline support staff.

Some 1,000 new staff members were hired as part of the opening of the SMH Venice campus and the oncology tower for the Brian D. Jellison Cancer Institute.

As shortages put nurses at risk of burnout and increase the risk for medication errors and deaths as well as waiting time for patients, hospitals across the nation are looking at how to solve this crisis.

One of the solutions the SMH hospitals have come up with is to recruit foreign nurses. The hospitals have hired a couple of registered nurses and six medical technicians from the Philippines this summer.

"The pandemic really tightened the labor market, so it was about this time last year, during the delta (COVID-19) surge when we expanded that outreach and asked our recruitment agency," SMH spokesperson Kim Savage told the Herald-Tribune.

The whole process of getting the Filipino nurses to Florida took about a year.

"We do go through quite the process with immigration and the lawyers to demonstrate that we pay them the prevailing market rate, and we go beyond that and we support them with a lot of different programs that would help them acclimate to Florida," Savage said.

"These are trained nurses, but any time you come into a new country and a new hospital, there are always specific policies and procedures they have to learn as well."

All nurses and medical workers hired from the Philippines have degrees and are fluent in English, as, from elementary school through university, Filipinos are taught their classes in English.

But the new hires still need to get a license to practice in Florida and a Social Security number so they can get paid for their work in the state.

The new hires are being helped to integrate into their new life in Sarasota County by a welcome committee formed within the hospital at the end of July.