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“It was very nerve wracking coming here,” said Denique Barnett, a pediatric rehab nurse at the James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital and international nurse at ECU Health. “I’m an only child, so leaving my family in Jamaica was very hard.”

For Barnett, pursuing her passion has been a journey of more than a 1,000 miles.

“The welcome that I received was a good one,” Barnett said.

The warm reception Denique received is one ECU Health offers nurses from around the world as part of the International Nurses Program.

“My passion is pediatrics, but specifically neonatal nursing,” Barnett said. “Back home there is no degree program for neonatology. So I decided that, you know, to further my studies and to self-actualize, I would need to come to the United States.”

Not only does the program foster additional growth and training for participants, it also fills an important recruiting need for the health system.

“We bring international nurses from all over the globe to come to our organization to spend about two years in a clinical environment,” said Charlene Wilson, chief people officer of ECU Health.

Launched in November 2019, 175 nurses from 21 countries have since spent time at ECU Health.

“Even though these are nurses that are seasoned nurses, they have to go through our NCLEX,” Wilson said. “They then go through the immigration process. They then begin to understand the culture of the various hospitals that have openings for international nurses. One of the things that is very different about their practice here versus their practice in their home countries is the technology.”

“At first, you know, getting used to just how things are done here using technology for me, that was a bit of a challenge,” Barnett said.

“I’m always told by the clinicians, including the doctors, that one of the things that is fascinating about what they bring is their analytical skills, because they don’t have the technology that we have here in the United States,” Wilson said.

It’s a unique perspective put to work for a common goal, improving the health and well-being of the region these nurses now call home.

“As an international nurse, making the leap is the best decision that you will make. There is a lot of opportunities for growth,” Barnett said. “There are a lot of benefits to being here at ECU Health, you know, just make the leap, come, you won’t be disappointed.”