The London Health Science Centre is welcoming changes to allow international nurses to the Forest City following the Ontario nursing college’s goal of alleviating staffing shortages in the healthcare sector.
Earlier this week, Ontario health minister Sylvia Jones approved plans from the College of Nurses of Ontario to quickly register “internationally educated professionals” as staffing shortages continue to cause temporary ER closures across the province.
Sarah Smith, manager of nursing professional practice at London Health Science Centre, said that at the local level, “things are still tough.”
“Burnout is real,” she said. “We continue to experience and hear stories of nurses that are leaving hospital nursing, even leaving the profession.
“We have lots of staffing shortages in the hospital, and we continue to face big challenges that are tough to address.”
According to The Canadian Press, the plan would allow international nurses to be temporarily registered as they continue completing their education and exams.
Additionally, the plan proposes that about 5,300 non-practising nurses living in Ontario could return to the workforce despite current regulations that prohibit nurses who haven’t practised within the last three years, which is required in order to be reinstated.
The changes would also make it easier for retired nurses in the province to re-certify, if interested.
Jones told the college to draft those amendments to regulations as soon as possible.
The college has said the changes could potentially help the almost 6,000 active international applicants currently living in the province, but Jones has asked exactly how many nurses will benefit.
However, Smith said that internationally educated nurses have often faced challenges in achieving registration.
“The province is one of the jurisdictions that has the most delays in registering internationally educated nurses in Canada,” she said.
“But hopefully, some of the changes announced at Queen’s Park this week will really break down some of those barriers and challenges and expedite us getting these nurses hired and onboard.
“In fact, we have internationally educated nurses within our own organization working in non-regulated roles that are here already with an interest in health care and working towards registration,” she said
“There are people available, but they face a lot of challenges.”
Jose Villamater, an internationally educated nurse at London Health Science Centre from the Philippines, told Global News about his experience in becoming registered in Canada.
“It took them like three years, maybe more, to get my licence, even though I was on time in submitting all the requirements,” he said. “It’s just a very long process.”
International nurses need to meet certain qualifications when they move to Canada, resulting not only in a long process, but an expensive one, Villamater said.
“In terms of registration application, and then the examination, yes, it adds up,” he said.
“When you move here, and you cannot practise nursing because you don’t have a licence, it’s quite difficult and I think it’s one of the barriers that delay the registrations.
“I am excited that the government’s response was to provide or to cover expenses, such as registration, examination, and the whole process, [including] for retired nurses who are willing to go back to the workforce,” he said.
London Health Science Centre (LHSC), Villamater works as a clinical educator, mentoring new nurses including those internationally educated. He said that the approved plan from the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) is a “very positive change.”
“We already have an established partnership with the CNO and so building on that relationship, and the processes that we’ve already built, will be a natural step for LHSC,” she said.
About 40 nurses have participated in the organization’s partnered placement program in the last six months, and seven more are set to start next week, Smith said.
“We’re also really used to working with temporarily certified nurses,” she said.
“This is something that’s a long-standing practice and not only our organization, but all organizations will be really familiar with hiring temporarily certified nurses [as] this is something that we do for new grads that are educated in Ontario already.”
LHSC has vacancies for roughly 442 registered nurse positions and about 100 for registered practical nurses. The hospital currently has nearly 15,000 staff, residents and doctors.