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Refugees serve as frontline healthcare workers in the face of coronavirus pandemic

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The IRC in Atlanta recently partnered with Sodexo at Grady Health to help refugees and immigrants join the fight against COVID-19 as frontline healthcare workers. In recent weeks, the demand for healthcare workers has grown exponentially and Grady has welcomed new American workers with open arms to meet their staffing needs, providing them with a living wage, full benefits and flexible schedules.

In September of 2019—long before the outbreak of COVID-19—members of the IRC in Atlanta’s Economic Empowerment team, Lauren Bowden and Laura Rudisell, met with Sodexo at Grady Health. The goal was simple: Meet Grady’s overwhelming demand for healthcare workers with dedicated and enthusiastic immigrant job seekers. Thanks to this budding partnership, the IRC in Atlanta has already placed six clients in fulltime positions at Grady, with plans to place another cohort of job seekers this April.

Six IRC clients and two staff members stand proudly together behind a Grady Hospital sign.

"We’re really excited that Grady is helping us serve our clients, but we’re even more proud to see the way our clients are serving our local community.” — the IRC’s Lauren Bowden.

At 961 beds, Grady is Georgia’s largest hospital, and the sixth largest public hospital in the United States. This puts Grady squarely in the center of the fight against the coronavirus—as well as the healthcare worker shortage crisis. Refugees arrive in the U.S. with the right to work and bring invaluable knowledge, skills and talents to the American workforce. The IRC in Atlanta’s team of employment specialists supports newly arrived refugees to integrate into the local job market through vocational counseling, job search and placement services, and workplace orientation and training, and partners with local businesses to ensure clients are placed in jobs that match their skill levels and financial needs.

Did you know? The IRC in Atlanta secured 282 job placements for clients with 95 local employer partners in 2019!

Among the newest Grady employees are four women from the Democratic Republic of Congo and a married couple from Afghanistan. When asked about working on the front lines of the epidemic, 22-year-old Edy, originally from the DRC, shared, “The hardest thing about working is that everyone is scared. You have to be careful to ride the bus or see the patients. We wear masks and we are very careful.”

Edy works as a Patient Server at Grady. This position combines patient care and food service. Patient Servers take patient orders and ensure that meals are in line with nutritionist orders. As Grady anticipates reaching inpatient capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this role is more vital than ever. Sanitary food preparation, food delivery and clean up ensure that the coronavirus does not spread between carriers and non-carriers. The work of these IRC clients safeguards doctors, nurses and other frontline providers against exposure to the virus so that they can continue their life-saving work.

WATCH: Refugees help fill shortage in healthcare

By working in a hospital setting, refugees risk their personal health and safety, but for IRC clients like Edy, working at Grady is a chance to serve her community and pursue a long-term career. “I like working at Grady because it’s been my dream for a while to be a nurse. It is my dream to help people. I like talking to the patients, reading the chart and learning about the diet, and—in the future—it will help me go to nursing school.”

“It is my dream to help people.”

The IRC in Atlanta continues to strengthen our partnership with Grady Health, and we are in talks to help immigrant job seekers access specialized custodial positions at Grady this summer. It is difficult to overestimate how vital this role will be as this busy hospital seeks to combat the spread of COVID-19. When asked about this partnership, the IRC’s Lauren Bowden explained, “A lot of people are afraid right now as we face this pandemic, but our clients are willing to lead the fight against this disease and keep our community safe. We’re really excited that Grady is helping us serve our clients, but we’re even more proud to see the way our clients are serving our local community.”

To learn more about the work of the IRC in Atlanta and for information on how you can get involved with the IRC as a donor or volunteer, please contact Development Manager, Kalie Lasiter, at Kalie.Lasiter [at] Rescue.org or 678-636-8941.

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