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Empowering New Americans in Healthcare: The International Institute of Minnesota’s Medical Career Navigation

Empowering New Americans in Healthcare: The International Institute of Minnesota’s Medical Career Navigation

The healthcare industry remains a cornerstone of society, with medical professionals playing an integral role in ensuring the well-being of communities. However, for many immigrants and refugees arriving in the United States, accessing and navigating the complex landscape of healthcare careers can be daunting. The International Institute of Minnesota (IIMN) recognizes the unique challenges these individuals face, including language barriers, lack of familiarity with the U.S. healthcare system, and the need for relevant certifications.

Medical Career Pathway

New Americans arriving in Minnesota encounter significant barriers when pursuing economic opportunities and higher education. To address these challenges, the Institute tailored the Medical Career Pathway to specifically meet the unique needs of these individuals. This model focuses on concurrent language proficiency and skill development, ensuring students gain access to employment opportunities and a clear pathway for career progression. For three decades, the Medical Career Pathway at the International Institute of Minnesota has successfully trained and positioned over 3,200 licensed nurses, nursing assistants, and various healthcare professionals within the Twin Cities community and statewide. Among them, since 2000, over 700 individuals have progressed into roles as licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, and beyond.

By supporting New American participants, predominantly people of color and English language learners, in overcoming unique barriers to accessing education and training, this pathway accelerates their integration into the healthcare workforce. This comes at a critical juncture as healthcare facilities and long-term care centers face urgent shortages of skilled healthcare professionals. IIMN graduates have filled these critical roles in the state’s healthcare infrastructure.

All pathway programming at IIMN offers extensive assistance to ensure participants achieve optimal academic and professional success. Navigators evaluate and assist participants in overcoming hurdles related to transportation, childcare, health insurance, affordable housing, mental health counseling, and employment. Additionally, students have the opportunity to utilize personalized financial coaching services provided by the Institute’s Economic Empowerment program. This service helps students build robust financial practices, create budgeting strategies, and establish savings plans, enabling them to sustain their journey towards long-term economic stability.

The Medical Career Pathway includes five programs that are free-of-cost to participants:

  1. Nursing Assistant Training program
  2. College Readiness Academy
  3. Medical Career Advancement program
  4. Internationally Trained Professionals
  5. International Medical Graduates

Certified Nursing Assistant Training (NAR)

The NAR program intertwines the required Nursing Assistant curriculum with a tailored English language learner program, aiming to support students in successfully passing the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) examination and obtaining positions within long-term care facilities. Instructors deliver the curriculum with linguistic and cultural sensitivity, specifically designed for New American students. Upon finishing the NAR program and acquiring CNA certification, employment navigators within NAR extend assistance in job placement.

The employment and financial navigators do the following work:

  • Resume and cover letter review
  • Job-search assistance
  • Financial coaching

College Readiness Academy (CRA)

Our NAR graduates, along with any other adult learners wanting to elevate their healthcare careers through college education, are urged to take College Readiness Academy. CRA supports adults preparing for higher education.  Alongside intensive English classes, college navigators guide students through college applications, financial aid, academics, English skills and provide mentoring, tutoring, workshops, and other assistance for navigating college in Minnesota.

With our college navigators, the students learn:

  • How the college system works
  • How to plan and schedule classes
  • How to apply for financial aid
  • How to balance school, work and home life

Medical Career Advancement (MCA)

Once accepted into a healthcare degree program, the student is eligible to apply for the Medical Career Advancement program.  MCA consists of higher education case management and comprehensive coaching to help entry-level healthcare workers to upgrade their careers to LPNs, RNs, or other advanced healthcare positions. MCA ensures students develop strategic educational and career plans, and provides ongoing academic support, financial aid planning, tutoring, and tuition assistance. After students graduate from nursing programs, MCA coordinates tutoring for the NCLEX licensure test for RNs and LPNs.

The following are services offered by the Medical Career Advancement navigator:

  • Scholarship funding, partial tuition assistance and financial aid navigation
  • 1:1 academic and career advising
  • Academic tutoring and board exam preparation
  • Test-stress management
  • Money management classes and financial coaching
  • Guidance to overcoming personal barriers
  • Employment navigation and advancement

International Medical Graduates (IMG)

In addition to MCA, IIMN serves many other dedicated individuals who have pursued careers in medicine and need support in re-entering practice through the International Medical Graduates program. Participation in the IMG program simplifies the often complex process of relicensing in the U.S. This initiative offers internationally trained physicians free-of-charge financial assistance on exam fees and other relicensing materials, plus guidance on credential evaluations, residency applications, and support navigating the often ambiguous aspects of relicensing through career-development from our IMG coordinator and the Institute’s professional network of IMGs and employer partners.

Internationally Trained Professionals (ITP)

Similar to IMG, the Internationally Trained Professionals program at the International Institute of Minnesota offers internationally trained nurses, pharmacists, mental health care providers and other healthcare professionals personalized support to streamline the relicensing process in the United States or to pursue alternative medical career training.

The IMG and ITP Navigators provide the following services:

  • One-to-one career and academic advising
  • Study support (exam materials and review courses)
  • A support group with other participants
  • Licensing exam fee assistance
  • Professional career networking opportunities
  • Employment navigation and career services
  • Financial coaching

The Medical Career Advancement programs have not only increased their graduates’ earning power, but, with their placements in the healthcare system, the programs have helped to increase diversity and cultural competencies within the sector to better represent the changing demographics of the community.  Graduates have become leaders in the Twin Cities healthcare community, some focused on the specific healthcare needs of immigrants and people of color.  Consequently, increased diversity has led to a higher quality of care for the Twin Cities community’s New American residents.

At the International Institute of Minnesota, the navigators stand as the cornerstone of success for our learners. Through their unwavering dedication and comprehensive support, our participants can access employment opportunities, embark on new careers, and ascend as leaders within their communities. The navigators’ commitment to providing wrap-around support ensures that each learner receives tailored guidance, enabling learners to thrive in their pursuits and contribute meaningfully to their chosen fields and the wider community.

Elizabeth Fontaine, Director of Education International Institute of Minnesota