One of the nation’s largest home health care providers is recruiting nurses from hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. New Jersey-based Bayada Home Health Care has successfully completed a recruiting initiative on the U.S. territory, which took place on January 20th and 21st.
The initiative was meant to both aid the nursing community in Puerto Rico as the island continues to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, a category 5 hurricane that hit in September, and boost the nursing care workforce for Bayada in Minnesota. Bayada operates 330 offices across 22 states and has been in operation since 1975, proving skilled home health care.
The idea came from a leader within Bayada’s Minnesota office who is also a native of Puerto Rico, and who suggested a Facebook ad campaign to recruit for nurses, according to Melinda Phillips, chief people officer for Bayada.
“We had way more responses than we thought [we would have],” Phillips told Home Health Care News. “We had 400 responses in less than 48 hours.”
The outpouring of responses may not be that surprising, considering the statistics: Four months after the storm, nearly 500,000 people are still without power, ABC News reported, leaving many in the dark and without work, as businesses remain closed.
In fact, the Facebook ad received such an overwhelming response, Bayada had to pull it down, Phillips said. From there, Bayada decided to go to Puerto Rico with 15 staff members, including eight nurses, to find 25 candidates who were qualified and could make a commitment to move to Minnesota for a 12- or 18-month period, at least.
By the end of the event, Bayada secured 26 commitments for full-time nurses, according to Phillips. The candidates had to meet Bayada’s nursing standards, including speaking English and having about one year of experience. However, the process of relocating from Puerto Rico may require some candidates to get a nursing license in the U.S., meaning it could be a few months before moving and working for Bayada.
“One candidate had been waiting or 20 years to work in the mainland U.S., and it felt awesome to give her an interview,” Phillips said of the event. “There were some nursese working at McDonald’s or working for less than $9 per hour and traveling three Hours a day, coming home to no power.”
Bayada offered nurses a relocation package to come to Minnesota on a 12- or 18-month commitment to work with the provider in exchange for air travel, 30 days of free housing and pay and benefits on par with its current workers. In addition, those who make an 18-month commitment to Bayada are given a companion travel voucher that allows one family member to visit, or enables the nurse to travel back to Puerto Rico to visit. Bayada will also offer mentors to help those who relocate acclimate to their new life in Minnesota and role with the company.
The recruitment focused on Minnesota, where Bayada has one of its greatest nursing shortages.
“There is a big shortage in Minnesota,” Phillips said. “We have clients waiting on our service.”
The provider has done international recruiting elsewhere in the past, according to Phillips. While Bayada is offering a generous relocation package and initiated an open house recruiting event on the ground in Puerto Rico, more nurses on its workforce will boost the services it can provide to more Minnesotans in need of care.
“From a business perspective, for most of our clients in home care, we do a lot of recruiting initiatives around paying up to the full bill rate to bring a client home,” she said. “This, to me, is no different—to spend money upfront to get the client home.”
The long-term benefit is likely to offset these costs, as Bayada’s average pediatric patient remains with the provider for about five years, Phillips said. Bayada was seeking nurses to serve both its pediatric and geriatric clients.
“The volume of clients that need care right now is so large that we have no doubt the return on investment is there,” Phillips said.
The initiative proved so successful that Bayada is considering going back to Puerto Rico for another recruiting round. During the January open house, Bayada was seeking bilingual nurses; in its next event, the provider may be more willing to hire only Spanish-speaking nurses to meet the needs of clients in certain regions.
For now, the company is determining how best to proceed, whether that’s hiring a staffing agency already doing work in Puerto Rico, or pulling their own staff to make another trip to San Juan in the future.
Written by Amy Baxter