Tsering, an ethnic Tibetan who came to the U.S. from India, was a nurse in her native country. She arrived in New York in 2009 and began working part-time as a home health aide.
Like so many immigrant professionals who try to renew their careers in this country, Tsering ran into several roadblocks, including not knowing how to get recertified and how to prepare for the national nursing exam—the National Council Licensure Examination, known as NCLEX.
Eager to use her professional training, she enrolled in the NCLEX-Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) preparation course for English Language Learners through the NYC Welcome Back Center at LaGuardia Community College.
The NYC Welcome Back Center (WBC), located within the Center for Immigrant Education and Training at LaGuardia, guides internationally-trained healthcare professionals through the state’s labyrinthine licensing process and provides career counseling and referrals to support services, such as ESL classes and training programs.
The foreign-educated nurses who come to the WBC participate in an intensive eight-month training course, adapted from the Washington State I-BEST model, which pairs English language skills development with technical instruction in integrated classes. In this team-teaching environment, nursing faculty cover the healthcare curriculum—anatomy, physiology, pharmacology as well as rules and regulations, and legal aspects—while an ESL instructor, who is also present in the classroom, works with the students on their language and study skills, vocabulary and content-related material.
While the students are going through the training program, an educational case manager ensures that credential verification applications are filled out properly by students.
While the students are going through the training program, an educational case manager ensures that credential verification applications are filled out properly by students, that documents coming from the students’ countries are in order and sent to New York State authorities for validation. It’s a complicated process and can take a minimum of six months to complete, according to Tania Ramirez, the center’s educational case manager. “If there are errors on the part of the student or their nursing school/ licensing authority, it can take up to a year or longer,” she added.
“During the course the Welcome Back Center taught us not just theory or nursing, but showed us confidence, guided us with a positive attitude, and showed us a whole new world which I always dreamed for,” says Tsering. “It’s my promise that one day, I will be a better nurse, better human being, who can help [with] any health needs regardless of age, race, or gender.”
Tsering’s dream has come true. She passed the NCLEX-PN exam, obtained her NY State nursing license and then subsequently also passed the NCLEX-RN exam. She is now working as a full-time Registered Nurse at a nursing home in Coney Island, Brooklyn.