Baysider launches agency to import nurses

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If there is anyone who knows how to network, it is Baysider Alan Chen.

Of course, when you are trying to start your own business, a little luck does not hurt either.

Nearly two months after Chen graduated from a Queens Economic Development Corporation class on how to start your own business, the Bayside resident’s efforts to create a full-service nursing staffing agency in Bayside are in full swing. The agency will specifically reach out to local immigrants who are experienced in nursing but may need to earn American credentials as well as to nurses overseas who want to come to the United States.

“It’s exciting,” said Chen about the launch of his agency, which will connect hospitals and nursing homes with licensed and certified Registered Nurses and Licensed Practical Nurses at a time when nurses are in short supply across the country.

“We’re going to make sure that linkage happens,” he said. The business, Prime Health Care Network, has also partnered with a Flushing-based travel agency to bring experienced RNs and LPNs from overseas to New York, where the agency will help prepare those nurses for state certification exams by providing review courses for the test.

In the New York area, nursing homes alone have a 10 percent vacancy rate for nurses, according to Chen, who said larger institutions like hospitals have an even greater need for experienced RNs and LPNs.

Along the way, Chen has had a little help from his knack for networking.

Chen’s wife met his future business partner, Nelly Alino, who runs Travel Den Inc. in Flushing, while riding the bus on Northern Boulevard. Now Prime Health Care Network will team up with Travel Den to tap into what Chen says is a community of experienced nurses who live overseas but would like to work in America.

“The beauty of the travel agency is that there are a lot of people who come back and forth for work,” said Chen, who said Prime Health Care Network’s overseas recruiting will concentrate in the Philippines.

Another fortunate bus ride led Chen to strike up a conversation with a woman who later designed Prime Health Care Network’s business cards, brochures and promotional materials. Still another business contact is designing the agency’s Web site, he said.

“It’s a very good synergy,” Chen said of the evolution of his agency, which is based at 217-04 Northern Blvd.

A Queens resident since 1978, Chen — who is of Chinese heritage and can speak Mandarin — grew up in Detroit and went to the University of Illinois in Chicago before a twist of fate steered him from biomedical engineering to health care.

As a graduate student in Chicago, Chen traveled with a tour group to China, where by chance he was able to meet his maternal grandmother for the first time and communicate with her in Mandarin. At the time the grandmother was dying of cancer, Chen said.

“Lo and behold, I found her,” an emotional Chen said while describing the meeting. When he saw his grandmother’s collection of family photographs, which included pictures of him as a child, Chen said he re-evaluated his decision to go into biomedical engineering.

“I could see my heritage in my homeland,” he said of finding his grandmother’s family photographs. “I said to myself, if I wanted to stay behind a desk that wouldn’t benefit humanity as much,” Chen said.

Now, he said, “I’m in a field where people will be employed and provide care” to others.

There are some obstacles to reaching out to the immigrant community, said Chen, who noted that some agencies’ promising review courses for the state nurses exam have cheated clients.

“These are people who shouldn’t have been abused in the first place,” he said. “We’ll take a nurse and if they haven’t had a good experience with working, try to help that person.”

Prime Health Care Network’s first review course for the nursing NCLEX exam was scheduled to be held Aug. 12 to Aug. 15 at the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel in Flushing. For more information on the review course, which is being taught by Dr. June Cochran, call 224-0200 or go on-line to

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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