Avant Healthcare Professionals was a 2012 Florida Companies to Watch Honoree
Every entrepreneurial journey is unique – where and why one begins is different than any other entrepreneur. For Shari Dingle Costantini, her journey began in healthcare, determined to make the international recruitment process of nurses and therapists more effective.
“Early on in my nursing career, I had decided that I wanted to go on the business side of healthcare,” she said. “I got my MBA in 1993, and after I received my MBA I went into home healthcare where I managed multiple home health agencies in Michigan.”
Costantini was able to work closely with internationally educated nurses, physical and occupational therapists, which ignited her entrepreneurial flame to find a better a way of doing things. “To be more clinically focused on the practice differences between overseas and the U.S. for both the clinicians that we were bringing in from all over the world as well as the client health care provider,” she said. “The goal is to align the expectations to what it would be like to practice in the U.S. and how a receiving health care facility can best support these international clinicians.”
With the commitment to creating a more seamless experience for both parties, Avant Healthcare Professionals began. “I still think today that’s what differentiates Avant healthcare professionals for the clinicians that we recruit and for our clients – the way that we approach the clinical transition and how to best support the clinicians and the clients through that process,” she said.
Avant provides long-term matches between qualified internationally educated healthcare professionals and client healthcare facilities in the United States to reach their career and staffing needs.
To do so, Costantini and her employees help guide clinicians through a rigorous and long application process that begins overseas and continues into the United States. “Before they get here, they have to pass U.S. licensure exams which we help them with, English proficiency exams that are required by immigration law and they have to their education deemed equivalent to the U.S.,” she explained.
The process doesn’t slow down once they land in the United States. “When they arrive here, the first two weeks they go through a cultural transitions program,” Costantini said.
This program is focused on preparing the clinicians to be able to live in communities across the nation. Whether it’s how to address culture shock, how to budget and manage their money or how to secure their apartment, the team at Avant makes sure their clinicians have all the tools they need.
After these logistics are square away, they move onto a clinical transitions program. “We have class rooms, skills lab and patient simulators that we use to prepare them clinically to go out to their assignments,” she said.
Keeping a Competitive Edge
Costantini says Avant’s competitive edge lies in the pool of eligible nurses their clients are able to access immediately. We typically provide clients their first nurse on assignment in 2-3 months while the recruitment process often takes years. “The nursing shortages and the healthcare shortages have been ongoing for many, many years,” she explained. “We allow our clients to access a talent pool that they would have otherwise not had access to.”
That same talent pool becomes even more beneficial due to the amount of time it takes from the start to the end of to the recruitment process. “It takes us anywhere from 18 months to three years to get somebody into the country, “she said. “So most hospitals and healthcare facilities wouldn’t be able to access that talent pool without us.”
“The other value that we bring compared to a competitor, I think, is the comprehensive clinical support that we provide to our clinicians and to our clients.”
For Costantini, it was important to keep a warm, inclusive culture at Avant, no matter how big the company grew.
“I think that one thing that’s really great about our organization is that despite how much we grow, I feel that employees are connected to leadership,” she said. “We try to be visible as leaders and we are involved in the business as much as we can.”
One of the best things about Avant, Costantini explained, is that their mission and values are so tangible. “You get to see the impact of our business when these clinicians come in from around the world,” she said. “I think it’s really unique to be in a business when you can see and feel the mission and the good that the company is doing.”
How the Award Impacted Avant
Since Avant Healthcare Professionals was recognized by Florida Companies to Watch in 2012, they have experienced tremendous growth in several different areas of business.
On the staffing side, they have been able to leverage the award to attract top talent and diversify their staffing model to include physical and occupational therapists. This change allowed them to adequately meet the demands in healthcare staffing by hospitals across the U.S.
“The recognition of this award made Avant Healthcare Professionals a strong candidate in its acquisition with Jackson Healthcare in 2018,” Costantini said. “This acquisition has led to our continued robust growth in the international healthcare staffing industry.”
Over the past 6 years, Avant has also experienced tremendous growth in size, branding visibility and financial growth since being recognized. For instance, their revenue has increased by 278 percent, the size of the company has increased by 809 percent and they have grown from 22 corporate employees to over 200 fulltime corporate employees.
For any aspiring entrepreneur who may be following in the footsteps of Costantini, she says, “Embrace change and never give up on your dreams.”