St. Anthony Regional Hospital serves a rural area of about 60,000 people. But the 99-bed hospital and 79-bed nursing home-based in Carroll, Iowa-have cast a global net in their recruiting efforts for certified nursing assistants, who have proved difficult to recruit to St. Anthony's corner of the world. Inspired by and working in partnership with local pastor the Rev. Jim McCormick, the Catholic institution has brought in, trained and taught English to eight nuns from India and Africa, who have worked at St. Anthony for more than four years. Four of them recently left for two other Iowa facilities and will be replaced by new "missionaries in reverse."
"We could talk all we wanted about providing quality care, but if you don't have the staffing, it's just not going to work," says Gary Riedmann, president and chief executive officer of St. Anthony, which had experienced a particularly acute need for geriatric services. "(McCormick) said, `What would you think if I could bring a nun from India or Africa to be part of your program?' My immediate reaction was, `How many can we
The nuns' home communities have benefited from their higher American salaries-they send money home-and will gain even more once the CNAs return home with their newfound healthcare skills, after serving eight to 10 years overall. Thanks in part to that continuity, St. Anthony has been able to launch a specialized 12-bed Alzheimer's disease unit, expand adult day-care services and enjoy full staffing of all geriatric services, which it has subsidized by $160,000 per year in 2002 and 2003, including the sisters' salaries.
The program earned St. Anthony the Spirit of Excellence team award. "It was such an extraordinary effort, to actually seek out people from another country, train them to do this position, with the intent of them being able to return to their home country," says judge Linda Miller.
The facility gained a spiritual shot in the arm, as well, says Wanda Stephenson, director of the nursing home. "We do like to bring spirituality to our residents," she says. For example, "When somebody is dying, they're very, very comfortable saying prayers and those kinds of things. And not everybody is."
Sister Anila Edakkamcheril, who came to St. Anthony from Kerala, India, in 2000, says she feels at home. "We are always welcomed," she says. "We have learned many things here, how to take care of the people."