11/02/18

From Lebanon to cancer center: an international nurse’s journey

From Lebanon to the Carle Cancer Center: an international nurse’s journeyBecoming a nurse for Mohamad Younes was unintentional. His father was an architect, and his oldest sister was an architecture major. He figured he’d embark on the same career path because it’s all he had known. It wasn’t until he got close to his uncle, an orthopedic surgeon, that he realized what other professions were out there.

“My uncle gave me transportation money to go to one of the government universities to see what majors existed,” Younes said. “I went there and found out that nursing was the only English-based major, so I enrolled. The rest is history.” 

After graduating college, Younes went on to work at the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC) and King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center (KFSHR) in Saudi Arabia – both Magnet-designated facilities. But it was at KFSHR where he flourished as a nurse.

Although he thrived, there were disadvantages to being a nurse in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

“Nurses aren’t respected in the community,” Younes said. “Nurses are often referred to as high-class maids. The public has no idea what we do. They think we insert IVs, give shots and baths and change diapers.” 

In 2015, Younes travelled to the U.S. to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) – a nationwide examination for licensing nurses in the U.S. and Canada – and passed.

It wasn’t until 19 months later, and with the help Avant Healthcare Professionals, Younes’ dream of being a nurse in America became a reality. But the process for some international nurses isn’t always a quick turnaround.

“It depends on where they are in the immigration process and what country they are coming from,” said Jackie Ohl, Carle Human Resources Talent Outreach consultant.

When Younes got the call to work at Carle, he said, “It was the best day of my life!”

“I wanted to come to the U.S. for a long list of reasons besides money. I was sick and tired of the discrimination and politics in the Middle East and Lebanon. I wanted to feel respect in my profession, to feel safe, to have healthcare I can afford.”

For anyone else thinking of emigrating to the U.S., Younes said, “Transparency is my religion, and I don’t want to give false hopes. Emigrate to the U.S. for the right reasons. There are things that you have control over and things you don’t. You have to pass your NCLEX, which is hard, so don’t underestimate it. You have to improve your English and don’t try to go around it. Learning English and being fluent is for your own benefit.

“Plus, you need to be able to effectively communicate with patients and to protect your license.”

One of his big takeaways is to not try to emigrate on your own because you will waste a lot of money and time on the process, and to work with a staffing agency like Avant Healthcare.

“Typically U.S. healthcare organizations have to work with a recruitment firm that’s established in the country they are recruiting from. We have utilized multiple firms for our international recruitment efforts at Carle,” Ohl said.

Now, having some time to settle in working at the Carle Cancer Center as oncology triage nurse, Younes wants to make his patients feel better.

“If I can bring down his or her pain from an eight to a five, then that would make my day and give me moral satisfaction when I clock out,” Younes said.

But it’s not just the patients Younes is trying to make feel better, it’s anyone who comes into contact with him, especially other nurses.

“I believe his greatest passion is to help his fellow international nurses achieve any and every goal that they can conceive. He does this because he has been able to achieve his goals. And once he knocks one goal off the list, he dreams up four new ones to go after. He is truly not only an inspiration to international nurses everywhere, but to any person wanting to reach for the stars,” said Courtney Cox, RN, patient care manager.

In May, Younes won Carle's 2018 Nurses Week Video contest. He submitted a video explaining what nursing at Carle means to him and believes he will win every time as long as he’s a Carle employee.

“I’m proud to be a nurse and to be a part of this organization. I will always give everything I do here 110 percent,” Younes said.