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New Mainers working to fill the state's healthcare void

As Maine is still in need of healthcare workers, a number of immigrants are getting their healthcare degrees to help with the shortage

LEWISTON, Maine — It's no secret there's a dire need for health care workers across the state and the whole country. There are some new Mainers who have backgrounds are helping fill the void in Maine's health care system.

Dancile Nshimirinana was a doctor in her home country of Burundi but her credentials didn't transfer when she moved to the United States six years ago.

"I was told you cannot be a doctor here," she said.

So she enrolled in the certified nursing assistant (CNA) program at Maine College of Health Professions, but she's not stopping there.

"Every time I was working, I was working to move forward," she said.

First, it was the CNA, then she became a licensed practical nurse (LPN) and now she is in school to become a registered nurse. Nshimirinana isn't the only new Mainer who moved here and is working to get back into the health care industry.

MCHP president Monika Bissell says the number of immigrants enrolling in classes here is increasing.

"There's a foundational knowledge that they have as compared to someone who doesn't have that context," Bissell said.

She adds that even though they have a background in healthcare, it's not always easy.

"The language is still a barrier for me but the concept is the same," Esther Kilongo said.

Kilongo was an x-ray tech in the Republic of Congo for 15 years and she wants to continue her career here in Maine.

Kilongo and Nshimirinana agree they are thankful for the opportunity to continue their health care careers, and to make a difference here in Maine.

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