Maryland is one of the few states taking measures to fight the “brain waste” resulting from the more than 1.3 million college-educated immigrants unemployed or working unskilled jobs, according to a Migration Policy Institute report released Wednesday.
But that educated work force is not wasted in Maryland, said Tom Perez, secretary of the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.
Despite recent state budget cuts, Maryland is funding a program to move foreign-born, foreign-trained health care professionals to jobs in their field.
The program started by the Latino Health Initiative in Montgomery County, which made a “modest investment,” Perez said, of about $5,000 per student to train 25 custodians, cab drivers, hotel workers, etc., to use the education they received in their home countries in a U.S. job.
Eleven of the nurses in the program work at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring.
The nurses provide a tremendous benefit to the hospital, said Wendy Friar, vice president of community health.
“These nurses are lovely,” she said. “They’re very well-trained, and they bring in a bicultural element that’s a must. . . . It’s not about language, but it’s about understanding different cultures, belief systems and customs, and these nurses bring it to the bedside and also teach other staff as well.”
Eight of the nurses have already passed their licensing exam, which gives them the same degree as a U.S. registered nurse, Friar said. The other three are still working with the program to pass the exam.
“Our vision is that immigrants are our lifeblood, they have always been our lifeblood, and they will always be our lifeblood,” [Perez] said, “and they enrich our communities in so many ways, shapes and forms.”