I can vividly recall the first time that I heard the words, “You’re going to Okinawa, Japan!” I was so excited. My wife and I had been trying to manipulate our way into an overseas assignment for years, and Okinawa sounded like the perfect place to PCS to. That’s the excitement of being part of the military lifestyle. Going to new places, experiencing new cultures, and having life opportunities that are not necessarily afforded to your civilian, non-military peers. My wife’s new job and career move was pretty clear and straightforward because she is the active duty member. But the future of my career was NOT so clear. I had just been out of nursing school for a little over 3 years and had experience working in both the ER and clinical nursing. At the time, I had even been working in a local military treatment facility (MTF). But what is the job market like in Okinawa? Where there even any nursing jobs available? If so, where, what type, and how do I apply? I was sure there would be MTFs on the island, but were they hiring nurses? Could I stay within the GS system? There were so many questions and uncertainties.
Luckily for me, I had a great resource. Because I was already working at a MTF in the states, I was able to find out some information in advanced from my local contacts. My Chief Nurse was able to get me a contact name for the current Chief Nurse at Kadena. My Human Resource Manager was also experienced and knowledgeable about the past job market in Okinawa as well. Through combined contacts I discovered the following: the nursing job market in Okinawa for US based civilian nurses is limited; most nursing roles are actually filled by active duty nurses; and the GS job positions are few and far between. The best that I could hope for would be to land a government contract job, if there were any available.I discovered that there would actually be two potential RN contract positions at Kadena that would be announced for solicitation about the time that I would be arriving. Whats that? Solicitation? Contract? What did any of this information even mean? Luckily, my HR manager came to my aid to help explain the process and how to get hired on as a contractor. “However,” says my HR manager, “it’s a real pain in the ass and most people give up on the process entirely.” Turns out, he was right.
In order to be hired as a contract nurse, you have to do one or two things: submit a package and bid on the job yourself (if the contract allows for it), or apply and get hired by an agency who has already been awarded the contract and hire you to fill the position. Both have pros and cons, but most nurses eventually choose the later. This is because the bidding process can be very competitive and a daunting task. It is a process filled with bureaucratic red tape, a huge time commitment, and a foreign language that is unique to government contracting. I liken it to learning either military or medical jargon for the very first time. Simply put, few find the bidding process worth the trouble. So that leaves you with the second option, get hired by a staffing agency. The primary benefit is that it’s as simple as applying for any other type of job in the US. Simply submit an application, reference letters, resume, and supporting documents. If there is a current open position and you are properly qualified for the position, then you stand a decent chance of getting hired.
Unfortunately, once I arrived on island, I discovered that the limited number of staffing agencies forced my fellow nurses to work within a system that did not necessarily support their employment needs. Specifically, most nurses complained about the lack of pay, benefits, and lack of communication between themselves and their staffing agency. You see, when you work for a staffing agency, the agency is your go to for all your concerns and questions. The local staff within the MTF is there to primarily support active duty military and GS employees. This often leaves those working as contractors feeling as those they are third class citizens. As I saw this unfold and the unnecessary stress placed on the professional contract employee, I knew I had to do something. So, that is how Orient Staffing Solutions was born. Truly out of a need to treat contract employees better, provide a fair and competitive wage with great benefits, and to provide a pleasant employment experience. Happy work life equals happy home life!
If you are ready to join a team that is committed to matching the right person with the right job, then click here to submit your application and get started today!
Keith Robbins. Founder & Co-owner