Patty Jeffrey, RN, has always sought out challenges. The more complex, the more rewarding. It’s a trait that’s guided her through her 30-year career in healthcare and staffing. From nursing to management to international recruitment and placement, Jeffrey traveled a path paved in analysis and resolution. Still, as Executive Vice President of International Operations at MedPro, Jeffrey may be facing her greatest challenge yet−the U.S. healthcare staffing shortage.
Jeffrey didn’t aspire to be the next Florence Nightingale, but she knew she wanted to work in a helping profession. Just 17 years old, when she entered college, she majored in psychology but soon realized studying the mind and behavior wasn’t her calling. However, while working as an assistant at Pediatric Associates over the summer, taking patients’ vital measurements and performing other needed tasks, she fell in love with healthcare. Jeffrey left college, earned her LPN, and then enrolled in RN school while working. “I loved nursing, and I excelled at it,” said Jeffrey. “But I always wanted to learn and do more.” She floated through various units, such as telemetry and critical care, assumed management roles, and worked as a nursing supervisor, quickly advancing her career and broadening her perspective on healthcare. “You oversee everything as a nursing supervisor, lab, x-ray, staffing, so I learned all about a hospital’s operations.” She thrived in the environment, motivated by the ability to support patients and their families and impact lives.
Jeffrey’s affinity for problem-solving made her the go-to for her facility’s Joint Commission requirements and quality control. “My brain just seemed to understand The Joint Commission, the complexity, and the compliance.” Her experience soon matched her up with future MedPro CEO Liz Tonkin, who was working with another company at the time. Jeffrey continued helping hospitals meet protocols and achieve Joint Commission accreditation before Tonkin made a proposition that would set Jeffrey on a new course. “Liz asked me, ‘Would you mind going to the Philippines? We’re trying to recruit some nurses.’ Without thinking, I said ‘Yes.’ I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I never imagined I would be flying for 24 hours, and I didn’t have a clue what international recruiting entailed. But that’s where it began.” Sort of. The Philippines was Jeffrey’s first venture into international recruiting, but her passion for travel started much earlier.
Jeffrey, the youngest of three children, moved to North Miami with her family when she was just three years old. She attended high school in Miramar and excelled on the tennis team. Jeffrey’s mom, Barbara Simmons David, was a teacher and believed in education through travel. So, when Jeffrey was 16, her mother took her on a cross-country trip in their Chevy Corvair, visiting national parks across the U.S. and into Canada. The experience was life-changing. “I got the travel bug, and it never left me.”
After that first recruitment trip to the Philippines, Jeffrey helped build HCA Healthcare’s international arm and open offices overseas, creating a full-service operation and placing foreign-educated healthcare professionals in facilities across the U.S. She learned every aspect of the process, licensing, credentialing, training, and immigration. She would use those skills to later turn MedPro International into the industry leader in the international recruitment, training, and staffing of foreign-educated healthcare professionals.
When Jeffrey joined MedPro in 2013, the company had just 42 employees and was primarily recruiting from vendors. Nursing had gone through a downturn, and physical therapists were in high demand. So, she taught herself everything she needed to know about physical therapy− licensing, credentialing, and exams. Eventually, the demand for nursing returned, but MedPro didn’t have a training team. NCLEX, IELTS, everything was outsourced. Jeffrey’s background in compliance and work with The Joint Commission would be invaluable as she helped build MedPro’s training infrastructure.
Today, much of Jeffrey’s work is on Capitol Hill. A founding member and current President and Regulatory Chair of the American Association of International Recruitment, Jeffrey’s primary focus is getting more healthcare professionals into the U.S. faster.
Reports by McKinsey & Company estimate the country’s care gap could reach 450,000 in the next few years if action is not taken. A shortage of incoming talent combined with an aging nurse workforce, an aging U.S. population, and the expansion of healthcare coverage by the Affordable Care Act are leaving hospitals throughout the country understaffed and threatening the quality of patient care.
“AAIHR is a huge asset. You can go to the Hill as an individual company, but you have so much more power when you do it as an association.” Originally founded to assist with visas and quotas, AAIHR has evolved into the preeminent advocate for ethical international recruiting, addressing ethical codes of conduct, treatment of people, and immigration issues. “If you don’t have a seat at the table, you don’t know what’s happening. AAIHR boosts our influence.” Jeffrey recently traveled to Washington, D.C., with other AAIHR members to discuss the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act 2023 and how it could help alleviate the healthcare workforce shortage. Jeffrey sat down with Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) to give AAIHR’s perspective on the crisis and how HWRA 2023 could help. She also visited the offices of Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), John Cornyn (R-TX), Susan Collins (R-MA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Thom Tillis (NC), Roger Wicker (MS), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. Maria Salazar (R-FL).
“We can control people moving through licensure and credentialing, but we can’t control how fast immigration works,” said Jeffrey. “HWRA 2023 would allow us to utilize leftover, unused visas to get more foreign-educated nurses into the U.S. faster.” The international team isn’t letting current challenges limit their 2023 goals. They intend to finish the year with 1806 HIF and increase the volume of recruitment activities to support 1,000 RN deployments, 600 Med Tech deployments, and 300 CNAs in the future. “I feel confident we can reach our goals. Our biggest challenge is feeling like we’re not doing enough. Hospitals are desperate, and we can’t deliver fast enough.”
Solving a Crisis
Jeffrey still loves to travel. She’s visited about 30 countries and counting. She stays active, biking and using her treadmill at work, and she always makes time for her family. She loves hanging out by the pool with her husband, Fred, and their two Corgis, Tucker and Zoey. However, with more than 30 years in healthcare and a long list of accomplishments and accolades, Jeffrey is still driven. This year, she celebrates her 10th anniversary with MedPro and was recently named a member of the Board of Governors of the CGFNS Alliance for Ethical International Recruitment Practices. Her days and many nights are consumed with finding ways to alleviate the nursing shortage. But the challenge does not wane her enthusiasm. “We’re in bad shape. Our hospitals are desperate. Our country is in serious need of more nurses, but I look forward to coming to work every morning and supporting our employees, and providing the help our country’s healthcare professionals need. I love what I do.”