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Refugees in Idaho are a critical part of the COVID-19 response

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Photo: St. Lukes Medical Center

Nabila Hamid and Halyna Isaieva, two environmental service (EVS) technicians and single mothers, work on the frontlines of COVID-19 to keep their community safe. Hamid and Isaieve facilitate the sanitation of hospital rooms in Idaho after patients — COVID-19 and otherwise — are discharged. Along with their team at St. Luke's Medical Center, they work as the hospitals' first line of defense.

Both women were recently interviewed by the Idaho Statesman on their heroic work. They told the Statesman about putting their anxiety aside to help others. 

“For me, I was anxious a little bit because I don’t have much family here, and if something happened to me, my kids will be alone,” said Hamid. “And I was also anxious that maybe I could transmit the virus to them.”

Photo: St. Luke's Medical Center

But her worries don't keep her from going to the hospital to protect others six days a week. 

“I am not afraid. I do what I can to protect my family, but I am not afraid to go the hospital to help somebody. And the main job for the nurse or a doctor is to be a human being first," said Hamid. "In the end we are all human beings; we need to give something back.”

Their work is essential to keeping Idaho safe during COVID-19.

“When we talk about heroes, I always think about the EVS staff as definitely the heroes,” said Russ Harbaugh, director of support services for the St. Luke’s Health System in the Treasure Valley. “They just do what they need to do. We couldn’t do it without them. We couldn’t even run the hospitals if we didn’t have these individuals doing this amazing job.”

Nabila and Hamila join the thousands of healthcare workers in the country stepping out of their safety to protect their community. 

“Refugees and immigrants are a critical part of our society,” said Julianne Donnelly Tzul, executive director of the International Rescue Committee in Boise. “They are keeping the engine of our community running. They are making the meat on our dinner tables. They are cleaning and existing in spaces even as many community members have, maybe, stepped out of those spaces for their safety.”

Read the full story by the Idaho Statesman here

The IRC is helping refugees join the fight against COVID-19

Halyna and Nabila started workng at St. Luke's Medical Center after graduating from the IRC in Boise's Career Pathways program. Through Career Pathways, Halyna and Nabila received pre-apprenticeship EVS training and were then hired by St. Luke's. The program helps refugees, who either previously worked in the medical field in their home countries or aspire to work in the medical field, get started in the healthcare industry. 

Nationwide, a documented shortage of over 1 million healthcare professionals in the U.S. before COVID-19 has left gaps in its response to the pandemic. Now, the IRC has launched Refugees.Rescue.org, an online platform that will help refugees and immigrants trained as medical and health professionals but not credentialed in the U.S. join the fight against COVID-19. 

Ultimately, many refugees want to return to working in the medical field. Providing a path for them to do so not only benefits them, but also the communities in which they live.