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Through Diversity, Building Better Healthcare

Fall 2010 | Archives

Project Bridge Guides Internationally Trained Workers Toward Licenses

Zamira Lostus

Zamira Lostus, a Uzbek pediatrician who has lived in the United States for 12 years, hopes to reenter the healthcare workforce in the United States as a nurse.

For years in her native Uzbekistan, Zamira Lostus, M.D., helped children feel better. When she immigrated to the United States in 1997, her years of medical training were meaningless—being a doctor in one country does not a U.S. doctor make. Now, at 54, Lostus is working to move back into the healthcare workforce.

"We'll get the LPN. Don't worry, we'll get it." Victoria N. Nakibuuka-Muli, Project Bridge Program Manager, reassures Lostus about the path ahead. Nakibuuka-Muli is helping ease Lostus' way through ESL classes and eventually toward Metropolitan Community College's (MCC) Licensed Practical Nurse program. After that, Lostus will work toward her next goal: "I want to work to be a Registered Nurse," she said.

Project Bridge helps connect immigrants like Lostus to the right courses and programs to help them reenter the healthcare workforce. New at MCC, Project Bridge is the only program in Nebraska designed to boost the number of qualified, minority healthcare workers in the Midwest by guiding internationally trained healthcare workers toward the right U.S. credentials.

By attracting, supporting and training underemployed immigrants with medical training, the program helps close the cultural and linguistic gap between patients and their doctors, helping to improve important aspects of care. For each person, the plan is different: Younger immigrants may be able to go through medical school and residency to become U.S. doctors. In Lostus' case, approaching a two-year nursing program made the most sense.

"Zamira is a perfect bridge for families who speak Uzbek or Russian. Other doctors might not have that ability," Nakibuuka-Muli said. "In the workforce, we can eliminate a language disparity."

Twenty-one individuals have connected with the program since its inception in March. In a few years, the program will ease more healthcare professionals into the workforce to better represent the region's diverse population.

By helping to promote diversity, Project Bridge will create a Midwest hub in Omaha for internationally trained healthcare workers, increasing the ethnic and economic diversity in the city by attracting highly competent, qualified and diverse individuals from around the world.

"When we hurt, we all hurt the same way; when we are sick, we are all sick the same way," Nakibuuka-Muli said. "It's up to healthcare practitioners to interpret symptoms and treat all patients."

Project Bridge is a community impact initiative of United Way of the Midlands and is also supported by MCC, client fees and private donations. For more information about Project Bridge, call (402) 738-4794 or email projectbridge@mccneb.edu.

How You Can Help

Many Project Bridge students are in need of scholarships to help cover the costs of education, licenses and certificates. To learn more about how to help, call (402) 738-4794 or email projectbridge@mccneb.edu.

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