British Columbia is plunking down $12 million to recruit foreign-trained nurses by making it easier – and cheaper – for them to get their credentials recognized in Canada.
“This investment is an exciting step in providing more support for internationally-educated nurses who want to work in B.C.,” says Michael McMillan, president and chief executive officer of the Health Employers Association of BC.
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“Health Match BC is excited to be a partner with the ministry, British Columbia College of Nurses and Midwives (BCCNM) and Nursing Community Assessment Service (NCAS) to support this initiative,” says McMillan. “Work will include a new marketing campaign to promote B.C. and a new provincial website to provide information on available supports. Health Match BC will also provide recruitment navigation support and administer bursaries to help IENS overcome barriers and encourage them build their future in B.C.”
$9m in Bursaries Will Help 1,500 Nurses Get-Credential Assessments
The new funding from the westernmost province in Canada includes roughly $9 million in bursaries to help foreign-trained nurses pay assessment fees to get their credentials recognized here. That’s expected to benefit about 1,500 nurses in the first year alone.
The remaining roughly $3 million will go towards consolidating the provincially-based assessment processes for foreign-trained nurses and the creation of nurse navigator positions to help nurses from other countries coming to Canada navigate the assessment and licensing process.
“Our government is committed to addressing the province’s demand for nurses. That’s why we’re launching this comprehensive suite of supports for internationally educated nurses to help them put their skills to use here in B.C.,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health.
“We are very pleased to be supporting BCCNM in developing the triple-track assessment process and to work with HMBC to provide financial and logistical support for internationally educated nurses. Removing some financial barriers and streamlining the assessment process will facilitate pathways to employment in the province and ensure British Columbians have access to the health care they deserve with even more nurses and healthcare assistants.”
In a report released last autumn, the more than 48,000-strong British Columbia Nurses’ Union bemoaned a chronic nursing shortage in the province, a shortage that goes back several years, and difficult working conditions.
“New research conducted by the BC Nurses’ Union in the height of the COVID-19 third wave exposes the mental and physical toll the pandemic continues to have on nurses on the front lines,” states the report, dubbed The Future Of Nursing In BC: Impacts Of The COVID-19 Pandemic And The Nursing Shortage In British Columbia.
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“Results also offer a sobering look at the current gaps in the healthcare system. From amplified levels of moral distress among nurses to hindered recruitment and retention efforts within the profession, there is serious concern that these systemic issues are having a lasting impact on the delivery of safe patient care.”
A survey conducted in May last year for that report revealed more than a third of nurses in British Columbia, 35 per cent, the experience of the pandemic made them more likely to leave nursing in the next two years.
“The pandemic has demanded a lot of the nurses we regulate, who have been called upon to deliver care under extraordinary circumstances,” says Cynthia Johansen, registrar and CEO of the BC College of Nurses and Midwives.
“It has also underscored the need for more nurses in our healthcare system,” she says. “We are delighted to be partnering with the Ministry of Health and NCAS to remove barriers wherever possible and bring internationally educated nurses into the system safely and efficiently.”
Under the current system of credential assessment, foreign-trained nurses undergo a complicated, costly and lengthy process to have their credentials recognized. The process requires multiple assessments and document submissions to numerous organizations.
The latest government initiative will see bursaries offered to foreign-trained nurses to offset the costs of assessment services, language testing, skill evaluation and educational upgrading.
Those bursaries will range from $1,500 to $16,000, depending on the assessment or upgrading required.
The new nurse navigators will help foreign-trained nurses as they navigate the various testing and assessments required to practise in British Columbia and also offer immigration and licensing support, relocation information and job placement and employment support.
“Finally, we are moving ahead, and I have envisioned and hoped for this to happen for my fellow internationally-educated nurses,” says Jennie Arceno, a registered nurse who herself was foreign-trained before coming to work in Canada.
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“This will surely motivate and help those who are in the process of obtaining their registration. During my time, it was very tedious and I was about to lose hope, but I kept looking at the words ‘RN’ and I know that I will obtain it, again. The struggles that I went through fuelled my passion for advocating for my fellow internationally-trained nurses, and knowing it’s slowly happening is just surreal.”
Even before the pandemic, Ottawa’s Jobbank employment website was forecasting a shortage of 36,500 nurses for the period from 2019 through to 2028. At the upper end of the wage scale, a nurse in the Canadian territory of Nunavut can earn a median annual wage of $169,045 based on a 37.5-hour workweek. The median annual wage for nurses across Canada is $78,000 based on that standard workweek.
Foreign nationals with the qualifications to work in Canada as nurses can use their expertise to seek out jobs here and gain their permanent residency through the many economic immigration programs at the federal and provincial levels, including through the Express Entry system, one of the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP) or the Skilled Worker program in Quebec.
Through the Express Entry system, nurses can often qualify for the Federal Skilled Worker program, provided their Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) profile scores highly enough.
Nurses can also qualify to come to Canada through the Skilled Worker program in Quebec if they score 50 points or more on the province’s selection grid.
Each province in Canada also operates its own PNP that leads to Canadian permanent residence.
Registered nurses who hold a university degree in nursing, registered psychiatric nurses who hold a bachelor’s or post-grad degree in psychiatric nursing, and licensed practical nurses, or registered practical nurses in Ontario, with post-secondary diplomas in nursing, are all welcome in Canada.