Boston Welcome Back Center

Welcome Back Center Supports Foreign-trained Nurses

When Tsering Dolma emigrated to the United States to join her husband in 2017, she feared that the nursing training she had earned in India would go to waste. “I was wondering how can I get back to my career, how can I get the opportunity to work,” she says. Eager to find work in the nursing field, she turned to the Boston Welcome Back Center to help navigate the nursing credential evaluation and Massachusetts licensing processes.

For thirteen years, the Welcome Back Center at BHCC has assisted nurses who, like Dolma, were trained in their home countries. With just two staff members, Educational Case Managers Evans Erilus and Allison Cohn, the Welcome Back Center has aided 415 foreign-trained nurses in obtaining their licenses to work in the United States.

“Graduates of the Welcome Back Center are highly motivated to return to their profession,” says Allison Cohn. “These nurses bring coveted bilingual language skills to the nursing homes and hospitals in which they work, as well as much-needed diversity and strength to the nursing workforce in Massachusetts.”

Dolma at the Medanta Medicity Hospital in New Delhi, India

Dolma at the Medanta Medicity Hospital in New Delhi, India

In 2014, the Governor’s Advisory Council for Refugees and Immigrants issued the “Rx for Massachusetts’ Economy and Healthcare System” report that charged a state-wide Task Force on Immigrant Healthcare Professions in Massachusetts to outline strategies to improve access to relicensing for immigrant and refugee professionals.2 - Educational Case Managers 13 - Years at BHCC 415 - Graduates over 13 years 121 - Countries 30-40 - Graduates Annually 61K - Average Income of Registered Nurse in Massachusetts

Programs such as the Welcome Back Center at BHCC eliminate labor market barriers for immigrants and benefit the state’s economy and healthcare system overall.

For Dolma, who graduated from the program this fall, finding BHCC’s Welcome Back Center meant achieving her goals and getting back to her career. Dolma grew up in rural Tibet. Her family was nomadic, moving from one place to another. They lived off of the land and sold milk and cheese made from the family’s cows and sheep. “There was no formal schooling,” Dolma recalls. “I knew only the Tibetan language and its history.”

As a teenager, Dolma convinced her parents to allow her to go to India to have the opportunity to study. “My parents were scared at first,” she says. “But they knew that my education was very important.” At the age of 14, Dolma fled to Dharamsala, India, where the Tibetan government in exile resides. There, she studied English and Tibetan language as well as mathematics at the Tibetan Children’s Village (TCV), a school under the leadership of the Dalai Lama.

While her classmates were in their sixth and seventh grades at the school, Dolma, not knowing how to read or write, had to start at the beginning. “It was very hard for me to study with my other schoolmates,” she remembers. “I needed to spend a long time studying because I had so much to catch up on.”

She went on to finish high school at the TCV before being accepted to one of India’s top medical schools, St. John’s Medical College in Bangalore in southern India, to study nursing and the Kannada language of Southern India so that she could communicate with her patients. “I needed to be able to interview the patients, talk to the patients and get information from them,” she recalls.

Dolma graduated from St. John’s in 2014 and started a nursing job at a small clinic at a Tibetan monastery before relocating to the city of Delhi in northern India for a position at the Medanta Institute Hospital in their Neurological Intensive Care Unit (ICU), where she worked for two years before she and her husband moved to the U.S.

Dolma graduating from the CNA training program at JVS Boston

Dolma graduating from the CNA training program at JVS Boston

A friend of Dolma’s brought her to the Welcome Back Center, where she met Cohn, who walked her through the process of becoming a credentialed nurse in the United States. The first step would be getting Dolma into a career in the medical field so that she could start working while preparing for the NCLEX-RN (National Council for Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses). Cohn helped Dolma enroll in a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) training program through community partner Jewish Vocational Services (JVS) in Boston.

Specifically designed for non-native, intermediate-level English speakers like Dolma, the “Caring for our Seniors: A Nurse’s Aide Training Program” offers specialized training in long-term care at no cost. Students in the 14-week program gain hands-on clinical training and improved English-language skills. 

Dolma worked as a CNA for one year at Spaulding Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, while preparing for the exam. The Welcome Back Center was with her every step of the way, helping her through the Board of Nursing requirements for Internationally Educated Nurses. At the center, Dolma enrolled in a six-month NCLEX-RN exam preparation course, a class only offered to nurses in the program.

In October, with the support of the Welcome Back Center, Dolma passed the NCLEX-RN exam and was offered a position as an RN in the Oncology Department at Spaulding Hospital, at last completing a lengthy credential evaluation. “The Welcome Back Center provided me with so many resources,” says Dolma. “Whenever I had questions, whenever I was in doubt, I could ask them. They were always available to advise and encourage me. It was very helpful.”

For Dolma, who dreams of working as a labor and delivery nurse, becoming an RN is only the beginning. She plans to continue her education and earn her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. “That is my goal. It is very important.”