Being an experienced nurse can open the door to a number of opportunities. One of these opportunities may be the chance to live and work in the United States. For many foreign-educated nurses, this is a dream come true. However, it pays to proceed with caution. While some nurses have wonderful experiences during their time working on U.S. soil, many others have stories of confusion and disillusionment. Use these tips to guide your choices as you seek a job in America.
Perhaps the safest and most reliable way to find employment in the U.S. is to do so directly through an American hospital or clinic. This ensures perfect clarity regarding who your employer is and what you can expect from them. Be aware that some hospitals use a third-party provider like a staffing agency to handle nurse recruitment. Nurses who sign on with a staffing agency are technically employed by that agency rather than the hospital where they are assigned. This means that the assignment could change at almost any time. Many of these agencies are trustworthy and operate within the limits of the law. Others are not so dependable. Use the Alliance for Ethical Recruitment Practices to learn more about acceptable methods and warning signs to watch for.
Review the Contract Carefully
Most foreign-educated nurses sign a contract before arriving in America. This written agreement is legally binding on both the nurse and their employer. A breach on either side can lead to costly penalties. Make certain that you fully read and understand the contract before you sign it. Even better, ask a lawyer to review it too. If your prospective employer has made any promises regarding your employment or the scope of your responsibilities, they should be clearly spelled out in this document. If they are not included, ask to have the agreement revised. A recruiter that refuses to make revisions in accordance with your prior discussions should not be trusted.
When reviewing a contract, be particularly aware of any provision for “breach fees.” Many contracts contain a clause that requires the nurse to pay back at least a portion of the money the employer spent to bring the nurse to America in the event that the contract is not fulfilled. For instance, if a nurse agreed to work at a hospital for two years but quit after one year, then they may have to pay the recruiter a breach fee to cover some of their expenses. Breach fees aren’t necessarily bad, but they should be reasonable when compared with how much the employer paid to bring the new employee to the U.S.
Know your Rights as an Employee in the U.S.
People who work in the U.S. have many rights, some of which may seem unfamiliar to foreign workers. When in doubt, it is always a good idea to ask the recruiter or the employer questions about worker rights. Nurses can also continue to rely on information from the Alliance for Ethical International Recruitment Practices to learn more.