Ontario has promised to put immigrant nurses to work faster. That change is long overdue

This column is an opinion piece by Yamaan Alsumadi, a nursing student in Thunder Bay, Ontario. For more information about Opinion Department of CBCPlease take a look… FAQ.

I am a fourth-year nursing student at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and I find myself in a classroom full of people who are perfectly qualified to help Ontario’s health crisis.

Instead, they are retrained because their certificates don’t count.

This summer, Ontario’s shortage of medical supplies reached critical levels as emergency rooms closed and nurses and doctors burned out.

Ontario’s healthcare system has had problems for years, but shortages this summer forced the Ontario government to act. This month, Ontario Secretary of Health Sylvia Jones approved a plan by the province’s nursing school to get more internationally trained nurses into practice faster.

This is a change that is overdue and needs to be implemented as soon as possible.

At the moment, There are currently 5,970 active international applicants living in Ontarioaccording to the latest statistics from the College of Nurses of Ontario.

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Some of them are my colleagues at Lakehead School of Nursing and many are either doctors or nurses in other countries who eventually pursue another nursing degree in Canada to secure registration and work.

But those who immigrate with their families are faced with a choice: to work in a minimum-wage job or to burden the family financially in order to complete a degree. Essentially: My career or my children?

One of my friends is a registered nurse from France with 15 years of intensive care experience. She has all the skills she needs to walk into an ER right now, but here she is in a classroom learning skills she’s practiced thousands of times.

Another friend is a cardiothoracic surgeon who couldn’t find a school to complete her residency in Canada; She is now a personal assistant with a limited scope of work compared to Registered Nurses, let alone a doctor.

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For most Ontario nursing positions, the minimum requirement is a nursing degree from a Canadian university or Ontario college. Although there is the possibility for nurses trained abroad to have their certificates recognised, Some nurses report years of waiting.

The Nurses College says the changes will allow internationally trained nursing applicants with educational gaps to “register and practice as a nurse under the conditions and restrictions of public protection while meeting the remaining requirements.”

As a result, she proposes allowing applicants who have completed nursing training recognized in another jurisdiction to be registered on a temporary basis, although they must be supervised by a registered practical nurse, registered nurse or registered nurse. A practice already being conducted for nursing students across the country to build their nursing experience.

This will increase the number of people working on the unit, minimize the physical strain on nurses when understaffed, while providing internationally trained nurses with the knowledge to practice nursing and meet Ontario’s standard of practice.

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The shortage of nursing and health workers has become commonplace and frequent. Emergency rooms in communities like Ottawa, Kitchener and Red Lake, Ontario were temporarily closed. On a weekend in August Six hospitals across the province had to close departments.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused immense burnout among employeesthere were problems with staff shortages.

The problem was documented at least as far back as 2016, when an Auditor General’s report found that the nurse-to-patient ratio in Ontario was at times as high as one nurse to nine patients. That was more than double established best practices for a four-patient nurse, the report said.

Then why did it have to take this summer’s crisis to speed up the registration process?

Foreign-trained nurses have the skills to help on the front lines of Ontario’s hospital staff shortages, but until regulations are changed, many cannot help it, argues Yamaan Alsumadi (Massimo Pinca/Reuters)

Registration can take up to five years, while others cannot register at all. How many nurses have dropped out, forced to take another job because they couldn’t wait any longer?

It is unfair to immigrant health workers, especially when they have already had to prove their qualifications for immigration; Under the Canadian immigration system, their credentials qualified them to immigrate to Canada in the first place.

Ontario’s nursing shortages are preventable; The changes proposed by the Ontario College of Nurses must be made as soon as possible.

The years it takes to register immigrants in Ontario are not necessary. They demean the immigrants who are qualified for a job and they are an additional barrier preventing these nurses from working on the front lines.

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