London hospital 'thrilled' with fast-tracking of foreign-trained nurses – The London Free Press

London Health Sciences Centre is looking to foreign-trained nurses to help it fill more than 500 nursing vacancies, applauding a provincial move to get more of the in-demand health-care workers practising in Ontario.
London Health Sciences Centre is looking to foreign-trained nurses to help it fill more than 500 nursing vacancies, applauding a provincial move to get more of the in-demand health-care workers practising in Ontario.

The province’s push to fast-track the credentialing of internationally educated nurses is welcome news LHSC is expecting to embrace, its nursing professional practice manager Sarah Smith said Friday.
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The hospital, which employs nearly 15,000 staff, residents and doctors, has vacancies for 442 registered nurse positions and about 100 for registered practical nurses.

“This is poised to make a big difference in helping us fill a lot of those vacancies,” Smith said. “We’re just really thrilled that the province and the College of Nurses of Ontario have partnered to make this a reality.”

Health Minister Sylvia Jones this week instructed Ontario’s nursing regulator to proceed with its proposed regulatory changes to fast-track the registration of foreign-trained nurses so they can work here.

The College of Nurses had proposed giving internationally trained nurses temporary registrations while they pursue full registration, such as completing additional education or an exam.

The regulator, which oversees 192,000 registered nurses, registered practical nurses and nurse practitioners, has said the changes could potentially help the 5,970 active international applicants living in the province. The changes would also make it easier for retired nurses in Ontario to re-certify.

The province’s push comes after a difficult summer of staff shortages in Ontario hospitals so dire it triggered long wait times and forced some emergency rooms to cut hours.

Hospitals, already facing human resources constraints before the pandemic, are now contending with intense patient volume, staff absences due to COVID-19 precautions, employee burnout and some workers leaving the sector altogether.

Though LHSC would be competing with many other large hospitals in Ontario for the new stream of foreign-trained nurses, the hospital has several features to attract applicants, Smith said.

“As an academic health sciences centre that has a mandate to support education and career development, we are uniquely poised. We have specialties in every area of interest for internationally trained nurses,” Smith said. “We’ll do our best to match them with an area of practice they’re interested in.”

LHSC is already participating in a College of Nurses program to provide on-the-job experience for international nurses looking to practise in Ontario. About 40 nurses have come through the placement program in the last six months, with seven more starting next week, Smith said.

It’s too early to say whether LHSC will explore starting bonuses or other incentives to attract newly registered internationally trained nurses, she said.

Jose Villamater, an internationally trained nurse at LHSC, got his bachelor’s degree in the Philippines more than a decade ago.

He had experience in several nursing areas before coming to Canada five years ago, but getting his foot in the door here was a difficult and lengthy process.

“The process to secure my licence here took them more than two years, despite the experience I already had,” Villamater said Friday. “Looking at what the College of Nurses of Ontario proposed and how the government has responded, they’re trying to make the process as fast as possible. Not three years.”

Villamater, a clinical educator in LHSC’s renal program, said getting accredited in Ontario was very costly — a barrier for many internationally trained nurses. He is encouraged the province is planning to temporarily cover exam, application and registration fees for this group of in-demand health-care workers.

“It was one of the challenges I experienced when I got my licence,” he said. “The registration, examination fees and other fees come up. They are expensive.”

with files by the Canadian Press

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