Tahera Khimji, BSC, BSN, RN, arrived in the United States from Tanzania in 2009 on an education visa to SUNY Plattsburgh, also attending Adirondack Community College along the way. She worked and went to school, sometimes traveling back to Africa for family reasons, and persevered until she earned bachelor degrees in both biochemistry and nursing.
Nancy Tushabe, BSN, RN, was born in Kenya, where her mother was a nurse. She moved to Uganda to engage in humanitarian healthcare work, which strengthened her desire to follow in her mother’s footsteps. In 2012, she, too, left Uganda for ACC and Plattsburgh to pursue nursing on an education visa, bringing her four children with her, ages 18 months to 12 years.
Both nurses found work in the field they loved, but when they had nearly exhausted their temporary work visas, their employers chose not to assist them in obtaining extensions or permanent status (green cards). That’s when Marcy Dreimiller, MBA, SPHR, Vice President of Human Resources at Saratoga Hospital, heard about their dilemma through a mutual friend.
“Here were two compassionate, locally experienced nurses,” says Dreimiller, “both with 4-year degrees, able to speak multiple languages, and at risk of losing their immigration status. I knew we had to do what we could to hire them.”
Dreimiller approached the Hospital’s leadership team to suggest a new financial assistance program to attract experienced, bachelor’s-prepared nurses. The approval created a new Immigration Financial Assistance Program as a pilot. The program provides a loan to cover fees associated with securing visas and green cards in exchange for working for the Hospital for a certain number of years, full time, with a regular salary and benefits. After that, the loan is forgiven.
“This pilot program is a solid investment toward our vision of a strong, diverse nursing staff,” says Mary Jo LaPosta, PhD, MS, RN, Senior Vice President of Patient Care and Organizational Excellence and Chief Nursing Officer. “It’s also another way we can demonstrate our gratitude and respect for our skilled and dedicated nursing team.”
Tushabe now works on the medical-surgical floor, where her natural warmth is welcomed by the patients in recovery there. “I love my patients,” says Tushabe. “I am being paid to do what I love, and it is all due to Saratoga Hospital. It is overwhelming, what they have done for me and my children. The green card and lawyer fees for all of us are paid, and my two oldest are in college. And here I am, among supervisors and leaders who are so down-to-earth and consider nurses as partners in patient care. They take the time to listen to our views and use them. I could not be happier.”
As a student, Khimji had completed her clinical rotation on the cardiac floor of the Hospital. “I already knew this is where I wanted to work,” says Khimji. “The team was so welcoming, like an extended family. I enjoy helping my patients have a better day today than yesterday, including translating when needed. One patient told me she felt safe, that everything would be okay, just knowing someone understood her. It is very rewarding. I am so grateful to Marcy and the hospital for believing in me.”
The photograph shows, from left to right: Nancy Tushabe, BSN, RN; Marcy Dreimiller, MBA, SPHR, Vice President of Human Resources; and Tahera Khimji, BSC, BSN, RN.