American Samoa House Health Committee hears of confusion with nurses recruited from Fiji

Pacific nurses during COVID

American Samoa House Health Committee has met and discussed the status of two out of the 21 nurses from Fiji who passed the NCLEX (National Council Licensing Examination) to be certified as registered nurses. 

Three others who sat the exam last week did not pass and will make a second attempt in September. The other 16 are still in the preparation phase and should be taking the exam at the end of September or early October.

Since their arrival in the territory last November, the nurses have been housed at Sadie Thompson Inn and by this Monday they all have to move out and seek their own housing, for which they will receive a housing allowance of US$500 a month.

This is according to a testimony by the newly appointed CEO of the LBJ Hospital, Dr Akapusi Ledua during the House Health Committee hearing on Tuesday, 25 July 2023. One of the witnesses was Lele Ah Mu Mageo who heads the nursing programme at the American Samoa Community College.

She told the committee that “the recruitment of the nurses from Fiji was not done right from the start and she feels this is the reason why the results have not been satisfactory.”

In addition, she stated that credentials, transcripts and other documentation to ascertain the knowledge and experience of the nursing recruits were not provided, and that these are prerequisites for nurse applicants from other foreign countries, which helps ASG ensure that the recruits can safely practice in the delivery of healthcare.

Ah-Mu Mageo does not agree that more resources should be poured into preparing the nurses who didn’t pass to re-sit the NCLEX and recommended that the recruiting effort concentrate on local students.

Seventeen nursing students are set to sit the NCLEX and they are graduating in December and 18 will start with the nursing course in August.

LBJ CEO Dr Ledua explained in detail how the recruitment of nurses from Fiji began.

“LBJ was facing an acute nursing shortage prior to COVID as the number of nurses leaving the hospital exceeded graduates from the nursing programme,” and that there was no plan in place to address what he saw as a very critical need.

At that time the need was for a short term and immediate fix while the long term solution was to recruit locally through the ASCC nursing program, Dr Ledua explained. From four options that were recommended, a committee of nursing leaders and management picked the option of recruiting nurses from Fiji and preparing them to become U.S. certified by passing the NCLEX. The other options were to recruit from the Philippines, bring in travel nurses from the U.S., or focus on local recruitment.