A chance to grow professionally: Nurses from Puerto Rico come to work for LSC

Schantel Laureano chose to leave Puerto Rico and come to work at Trinity Ridge for a better opportunity to grow professionally in a nurturing environment.

“Here I can grow better,” she said. “The treatment in the jobs (is) different, the money they pay you; they treat you right here. I hope it helps me grow.”

This year, Lutheran Services Carolinas had an opportunity to work with RDC Recruiting Services to recruit registered nurses in Puerto Rico to work as nurse aides in some of its communities for one year. The first group of five arrived in January and began work at Trinity Grove in Wilmington, while four others have been at Trinity Ridge in Hickory for about 3 months.

“In Puerto Rico, the job opportunities were very low. I wanted something more,” said Melissa Morales, who is also at Trinity Ridge. “I wanted to make a difference, and I know that being a nurse I can do that kind of change.”

For this program, LSC pays for housing for 90 days, provides transportation to and from work and to go shopping on the weekend for groceries, and provides meals at the senior living communities. While they are working and learning, the nurses are also preparing and studying to take the NCLEX so that they can become licensed registered nurses in North Carolina.

Itzvan Gonzalez said packing up and heading to Hickory has been fantastic, but also a rollercoaster of emotions. Adjusting to a new work environment and a new home took a little while, but now he said he is learning something new every day and working on getting his driver’s license to explore more of the city.

He also knows he made the right career choice.

“It comes naturally to me to help other people. In the Bible it says love your neighbor. I have already been interested in science and medicine, so the mix of helping people and medicine and science got me to studying nursing,” he said. “And nursing has been my passion.”

Over in Wilmington, the nurses are enjoying the weather and their new coworkers. They also agreed that it was hard to get a job in Puerto Rico without at least 3 years of experience.

Omar Canales said the job is the same as in Puerto Rico but the culture is different at Trinity Grove.

“It feels like you are part of a family,” he said. “I love the people I work with. I feel like I get help all the time from the people I work with.”

Canales said he’s decided he wants to retire in Wilmington, and many of the nurses said they want to stay and work in North Carolina once they pass their test.

“Over here we feel like we are being appreciated for the work that we do and they encourage employees to do better and go the extra mile,” Itzia Maldonado said.

LSC hopes to expand the program and bring in nurses for Trinity Glen in Winston-Salem and Trinity Oaks in Salisbury in the future.