City College’s New Program Aims to Fill Healthcare Shortage with Immigrant Professionals | Chicago News

The Chicago Welcome Back Center launched Tuesday at the Arturo Velasquez Institute at Richard J. Daley College.

The program will serve as a resource center for internationally trained individuals in healthcare fields who are working toward licensure in the United States.

“This center will help our international community pursue their profession of choice and realize their dreams,” said Janine Janosky, President of Richard J. Daley College.

In partnership with the Chicago Bilingual Nurse Consortium, Janosky helped bring the Chicago Welcome Back Center into the City Colleges of Chicago. Leaders say the effort will help foster career success for immigrants and refugees who have medical training and experience. The Chicago center is the first to open in the Midwest.

“The intention is to help diversify America’s healthcare workforce to better serve an increasingly diverse population,” said Dr. José Ramón Fernández-Peña, executive director of the Welcome Back initiative.

The Welcome Back initiative was created in 2001 by Fernández-Peña to guide and help foreign-trained healthcare professionals living in the United States obtain licensure in their home profession.

Fernández-Peña notes that the American healthcare workforce does not reflect the diversity of the community they serve.

“In addition to the lack of diversity, there are serious shortages in all areas of healthcare personnel, from nurses to mental health professionals, doctors, public health professionals, speech therapists, etc.”, a- he declared.

During the COVID pandemic, healthcare workers have faced challenges, straining the field.

“What we know about the pandemic, we knew before, but it has become very clear that we have a shortage of manpower, both in terms of nurses and in other health professions,” said said Janosky.

There was a nationwide shortage of nurses that led the American Nurses Association to call on the Biden administration to take action. a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.

In Illinois, 25% of Illinois nursing facilities reported a shortage earlier this year, according to a health data research firm KFF.

In Illinois, about 52,000 immigrants hold at least a four-year college degree in medical and health sciences and services, according to the Welcome Back initiative. Of these people, about 22% work outside the medical field.

The center attempts to fill this gap by helping individuals obtain their licensure in Illinois and improve their English proficiency while helping them with career research and resume writing.

The Chicago Bilingual Nurse Consortium has been trying to solve this problem for over 20 years in Chicago. Founder Carmen Velasquez worked to make this partnership a possibility.

“We all know there’s a shortage of nurses in this country and in the state of Illinois,” Velasquez said. “We’re going to focus on helping people from other countries who were nurses fill that workforce gap.”

The Welcome Back initiative has been a proven success in its previous implementations across the country, according to the organization. It has added thousands of multicultural and multilingual healthcare professionals to the workforce, increased their incomes by 150% and improved their lives outside of work. The initiative says it has served about 22,000 participants from 167 countries.

Depending on their location, centers often offer additional services, such as housing assistance, childcare, employment assistance, legal advice and more.

“Professional integration enables civic integration,” said Fernández-Peña. The hope is that the program will not only have an impact on individual licensing, but will also extend its impact to the community as a whole, he said.

The program requires participants to be a registered nurse outside the United States and reside in Illinois as a legal resident of the United States.

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