Faces Of The Boom: Nurses From Philippines Helping Plug Holes In Oil Patch Health Care

Lucy Meg Quinit, pictured Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, at Trinity Health in Minot, N.D., is one of a group of 86 nurses from the Philippines recruited to work in Minot. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

MINOT, N.D. – Filipino nurse Lucy Meg Quinit thought she and her family would miss home more as they adjust to a new life in North Dakota.

But Quinit is among more than 80 nurses from the Philippines that Trinity Health in Minot has recently hired, and the new recruits have formed their own support community.

“That’s one of the reasons we’re not getting so homesick,” said Quinit, who has worked for Trinity Health for one year.

International recruitment is one way Trinity Health has responded to western North Dakota’s oil development, which has increased patient loads in Minot while making it more difficult to retain staff.

“The oil boom has really, really had a tremendous effect on health care in general,” said Barbara Brown, Trinity’s chief nursing officer.

Trinity Health, a regional trauma center with a service area of 20 counties, continues to hire nursing graduates from local colleges and universities, as well as around the country, and has no problem getting applicants, Brown said.

But the high cost of living in Minot makes it difficult attract and retain staff, and many hires from elsewhere in the country choose to move closer to family after they gain experience, Brown said.

Trinity Health responded by developing a recruitment plan, which included traveling to the Philippines about two years ago and interviewing more than 150 nurses, Brown said. During that trip, they hired 86 Filipino nurses, and they continue to conduct interviews via Skype when they have a qualified applicant, she said.

For Quinit, a native of Cebu City, the opportunity to work in the U.S. was something she wanted for years so she could have access to better opportunities.

“Nurses there are really paid so low,” said Quinit, 42.

Quinit moved to Minot about a year ago and her husband Dexter and their sons Darren, 6, and David, 2, joined her after they completed the school year there and she had found an apartment.

Quinit works weekdays in Trinity’s podiatry clinic and her husband works nights and weekends for Trinity as a central processing technician, a schedule that allows one parent to always be with the boys.

In the winter, Darren has questioned why his mom would choose to move them to such a cold city, but he likes his school so much he wishes he could go to kindergarten on weekends.

“It wasn’t hard for him to adjust. He loved it right away,” Quinit said.

Most of the other Filipino nurses also have their families in Minot and they get together for birthday parties and holidays. They use technology to keep in touch with family back home.

“I still get to talk to them almost every day, if not every day,” Quinit said.

Trinity is now considering recruiting nurses from Canada as well, Brown said.

“I think we have to,” Brown said. “We have to continually look at all the different opportunities we might have because we’re not the only ones. Everyone’s struggling to make sure they have people.”