Friday, May 12 is International Nurses Day and this year’s event comes at a time when the number of foreign nurses is increasing dramatically across the U.S. But English proficiency remains an obstacle for providers and recruiters in other countries. Experts estimate that around 8% of the eight million nurses working in the U.S. are foreigners or were educated overseas.
Febin Cyriac knows what it’s like to immigrate to another country to be a nurse. He worked as a nurse in Mumbai, India after earning his degree. The region is known for its high levels of English proficiency, which has helped it produce a lot of nurses over the years. He moved from India to the U.K. to study at the University of East London and eventually started working at a private company. Cyriac soon got involved with the growing expat community.
“Many of my weekends were spent participating in community events and collecting friends from the airport, all of which required more disposable income than I had. I needed to broaden my horizons,” he said.
He then started working at a London-based nursing agency where he moved into business development. That gave him a crash course in everything that was wrong with the foreign nurse recruitment process. The biggest barrier for non-EU nurses is the IELTS, a stringent English proficiency test. To get approved, nurses need to score at least a seven out of nine on a single attempt.
“It made no sense for nurses to need the highest levels of technical English skills, only to struggle with the strong local dialect and leave everyone involved lost in translation,” Cyriac explained. “What was needed was a good degree of conversational English.”
In 2014, he started his own recruitment consultancy agency called Envertiz to help professionals traveling to the U.K. with their transition. His work convinced the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to reduce the English proficiency requirement to a score of 6.5.
The change allowed Cyriac to quickly scale up his company’s recruitment efforts overseas. He also launched a campaign devoted to “free nursing recruitment” to help ease the U.K. nursing shortage.
“The culture in Kerala State at the time was for firms hiring healthcare professionals for jobs abroad to charge pre-recruitment fees for the service, so trust levels among candidates were low,” he added. “However, with word of mouth from individuals, their families, friends and colleagues, we became a trusted go-to resource, our numbers increased organically, and in 2019 Envertiz turned a profit.”
The company started out as a side-project in Cyriac’s bedroom, but it now has over 100 employees. It has recruited over 10,000 nurses who now work at over 100 NHS facilities in the U.K. Envertiz offers training, events, and visa processing for providers looking to make the move.
“My greatest aspiration is for countries to recognize the availability of healthcare professionals as a global problem that can only be solved by sharing knowledge, best practices, and cooperation,” he said. “We will continue our efforts to lower red tape and encourage the growth of a global mobile healthcare workforce.”