The United States is facing a growing nursing shortage crisis, exacerbated by demographic shifts and an increased demand for healthcare services. In response to this challenge, Chris Hoehn-Saric and Imran Oomer, co-founders of inSpring, have embarked on a mission to address the nursing shortage by tapping into the potential of international students. In an exclusive interview with MSM Reporter, they shared their inspiration behind founding inSpring and how the organization is revolutionizing the way international students can become nurses in the US.
Established in Boston, Massachusetts, inSpring serves as a worldwide platform for talent mobility, facilitating connections between international students and high-demand career opportunities in the US.
Through the facilitation of education-to-employment transitions, the simplification of visa procedures, and the streamlining of funding, inSpring is positioning itself as a major player in addressing the scarcity of healthcare workers and generating prospects for skilled international students pursuing rewarding careers in the United States.
What inspired you and your team to start inSpring and address the nursing shortage issue through international students?
My co-founder, Imran Oomer, and I have known each other for over a decade. We are both proud of our families’ immigrant experience where Imran’s parents and my grandparents had come from overseas to the US seeking education and opportunity.
As we spent the last decade as part of the founding team at Shorelight, we saw thousands of international students pursuing that same dream. At the same time, we are all reading headline after headline about tech and nursing labor shortages in the US. We knew that the same enrollment and retention challenges facing American higher education were impacting the skilled labor pools in key industries like healthcare and that highly educated and motivated international talent was being overlooked every day.
We founded inSpring because we knew that to solve these talent shortages, international [students] had to be part of the solution and that employers needed support in bridging last-mile job readiness, managing visa complexity, and connecting with retainable, US-educated mobile talent.
Can you provide more details about the training and education that international students will receive in the accelerated nursing program at inSpring?
The opportunity for students to become nurses in the US is completely overlooked in the international education sphere. Nurses are consistently ranked the number 1, most trusted profession in America, earn a median wage of $89,000, have effectively zero unemployment, and have more options available to them for longer-term work rights than virtually any other profession. Despite this, international students do not pursue nursing at a large scale due to the complexity of program selection, admissions readiness, access to financing sources, and navigating the post-study licensure and visa processes.
We work with prospective candidates from end to end – we assess their aptitude for the nursing profession and get them ready with the right prerequisite coursework and pre-nursing assessments (ATI TEAS preparation) needed to progress through a curated selection of accelerated nursing programs (<18 months), support their access to education loans, and support their job placement and sponsorship with hospitals. We work exclusively with universities and hospitals, ready to work with this diverse audience.
What specific challenges do you anticipate international students may face when seeking employment and sponsorship in the US healthcare sector?
The career prospects for nurses are extraordinary from strong starting salaries ($70K+) and career and earning potential mobility via advanced credentials (Masters and doctoral). Should candidates decide down the road to pursue longer-term work visa options there are several employment-based visa programs such as the EB3, H1B, and EB2 NIW which are available to nurses.
While no one can guarantee jobs or visa success, we are built to maximize the opportunities available. One of the major challenges for nursing students is at the very time they are preparing for the high-stakes NCLEX exam to become a registered nurse post-graduation, they are also on the clock to activate their employment authorization via OPT (Optional Practical Training), a feature of the F1 student visa.
On top of that, they must find hospital employers ready to ride through the complexities of the employment-based visa filings, all concurrent to getting started in an intense career. We exist to take all of that friction away so candidates can focus on their academics, licensure, and job performance.
Could you explain the role of inSpring in connecting international students with American nursing jobs and facilitating international student financing?
Our model starts with the healthcare employers. We specifically look for partners who are eager to hire international candidates and create a financially sustainable steady flow of nursing talent. We are not a staffing firm and place candidates directly in hospitals where they can earn between $70K to $90K per year in their first year of work.
Our primary economics are paid on the basis of a candidate being hired and retained within the hospital, so we are aligned with all major stakeholders in this outcome: students, employers, patients, universities, and lenders. Because nursing is a complex niche, we work with universities and lenders to structure short-duration (<18 months) programs that are eligible for international student loans and have a high post-graduation income-to-debt ratio.
That’s critical, because these programs can have tuition points higher than more mainstream degrees, but the career outcomes are higher ROI.
What impact do you expect inSpring’s program to have on alleviating the nursing shortage in Massachusetts and other areas facing similar challenges?
Our two part mission is to change the lives of candidates and change the communities we serve. The data is clear: the nurse shortage is severe and growing in every market, even in a tier-one healthcare market like Massachusetts.
We are building the infrastructure to produce hundreds of nurses a year per market, starting with Massachusetts and believe the candidate demand, university capacity, and hospital need is there.
Are there any prerequisites or qualifications that international students must meet to be eligible for inSpring’s nursing program?
There are two prerequisites to becoming an inSpring Nursing Candidate. The first is that the candidate has completed an undergraduate degree in their home country. The accelerated nursing track that we facilitate serves as a second or sometimes top-up degree.
The second is capacity to pay between $15K-$40K of education and related expenses before they begin working. Even with student loans, we expect candidates to need funds to cover aspects of the 12-18 month program.
Beyond that, each candidate’s journey is unique. There are prerequisite courses that need to be completed if they were not part of the candidate’s undergraduate degree. There are pre-nursing assessments via ATI that may result in slightly nuanced differences in requirements to progress depending on a candidate’s background. Our team of registered nurse educators help them navigate not just the preparation phase but all the way to placement.
Looking ahead, what are inSpring’s long-term goals and expansion plans for addressing workforce shortages in healthcare and related industries?
We have a lot of work ahead in serving the technology and healthcare fields today, but the US has skilled labor shortages emerging in many other fields. Within the healthcare space alone, everything from physical therapists, occupational therapists, and behavioral health specialists are becoming increasingly essential for our public health and in short supply.
Outside of the healthcare field, we have had conversations about serving the K-12 and higher education space for qualified STEM teachers in everything from middle and high school math and biology to college-level nursing education.
There is more talent originating outside of the US ready and able to take this on, and we’re here to help bridge them to those critical fields.