In the wake of international concerns over the Syrian refugee crisis, other conflicts have not slowed in the slightest. Refugees from other countries still need places to stay even if their plight is not drawing quite as much attention from news outlets. The city of Appleton,Wisconsin recently accepted a number of refugees from the Middle East and Africa unrelated to the Syrian conflict, and instead of seeing them as a burden, have taken steps to use the refugees to address local public health concerns.
Currently, Appleton and neighboring Fox Valley, Wisconsin, have been experiencing a serious shortage in nurses and physician’s. Fox Valley Technical College reported that they are receiving almost constant requests for nurses and CNAs to help address the crisis, but they simply do not have enough students to meet the growing demand.
At the same time, the community is now home to around 130 refugees that relocated to the region in the past two years. Many of them are in need of employment. Marie Martin, director of global education and services at the college, proposed that the refugee population might be the solution to the region’s health care needs.
Martin and the staff at Fox Valley met with employers and asked if they would be willing to sponsor scholarships for refugees to enter into nursing and certified nursing assistant programs. While they initially proposed a scholarship that would have sponsored one student, an overwhelming response from employers has led to an entire class of eight students being sponsored by local health care providers.
The class has already filled up with refugee students, and the program appears to be a rousing success. While no students have graduated from the program as of yet, the CNA portions consists of two courses and should see graduates at the end of this semester. The continued success of the program could very well be a model for similar programs in the future as the U.S. decides how to handle incoming Syrian refugees.