Sunnybrook hospital forging paths to help internationally educated nurses

As the province looks to deploy internationally educated nurses, hospitals have begun recruiting qualified applicants. Faiza Amin reports on the pathway one hospital is taking to improve what can be a daunting process for IENs.

By Faiza Amin and Meredith Bond

Ontario’s health care sector is starting to rely more heavily on internationally educated nurses and is working towards making it easier for them to be registered.

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre has been ahead of the pack, working with these nurses to find career pathways in the Canadian healthcare workforce.

Chandra Kafle is currently working as an advanced practice nurse in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Sunnybrook hospital, but it took Kafle years to even become registered.

She originally came to Canada in 2012 from Nepal where she had worked as a nurse. However, her education to not meet the criteria to be able to take NCLEX exam required for nurses to become registered here in Canada.

After attending the Academic Pathways for Nursing program at George Brown College where she had her clinical placement at Sunnybrook.

Despite this program, it still wasn’t enough to take the NCLEX exam so she enrolled in a Bachelor of Science at York University. She was able to take her Registered Practical Nurse exam and began work as an RPN at Sunnybrook while she was still in school.

In 2017, she finally became eligible to become a registered nurse(RN) and was hired full time at Sunnybrook.

“It’s been a long journey, but when I reflect back I’m really proud how far I have come despite all the challenges,” Kafle told CityNews.

She is now working on getting her Masters in Nursing while still working at the hospital.

Kafle says while it was a lot of work for her, she is glad the options are improving for internationally educated nurses as many she knew were not able to continue at the time.

“I’m very happy that I went to school. I upgraded myself I was able to pursue my dream my dream career, but some of my friends they were not able to because of so many reasons, personal reasons, family. It’s not always easy,” explained Kafle.

She praised Sunnybrook for the program that allows them to work and learn simultaneously.

“They’re working at the same time. They’re learning, they’re learning about the different environment, they’re learning about the culture and communication skills will also be improved. I wish we had that back then,” said Kafle. “We were forced to work as a personal support worker or in other non-health-related work because there was no options available. Now we have clinical experience and other different options.”

Director for Interprofessional Practice at Sunnybrook, Tracey Das Gupta says internationally educated nurses are crucial to the sustainability of the health care system in Ontario.

“The internationally educated professionals are actually critical to the success of building future pipelines and also ensuring our future stability,” said Das Gupta.

She is in charge of creating these pathways, in partnership with Ontario Health and the College of Nurses of Ontario, to provide opportunities for these nurses

“The pathways help to bridge the transition of internationally educated nurses not only into the workforce as employees within new roles that have been created and supported by the Ministry of Health, but also helping them move along to complete their college requirements so that they can move into professional roles such as RNs and RPNs.”

She said the pathways are a way to break down some of barriers internationally educated nurses face when trying to become certified.

“The barriers create long gaps within each each step that they experience. And so it can take, you know, up to three years or more for IEN’s to be able to transition into professional roles,” said Das Gupta. “What we haven’t had is a coordinated way to help people move along those different pathways and with some efficiency, to help to smooth that path.”

Sunnybrook is also taking advantage of the new program introduced by the Ministry of Health called the Supervised Practice Experience Partnership to continue their work with IENs.

“We know that our internationally educated professionals, nurses bring so much value to our system. And so the end goal is is that we will create this pathway that we will be able to sustain,” said Das Gupta. ”

She added this program will allow them to identify more of the barriers that are keeping IENs from becoming certified.

“We’re going to learn what’s going to make it even better. We need to continue to dig down into what are the things that continue to be barriers, such as finances,” said Das Gupta. “The goal would be that we would have a very smooth pathway that we would know before people even choose to migrate to Canada that we would be able to offer them a job in the healthcare workforce in different types of roles, that we will be able to develop them in extra roles so that they’re actually working with clinical teams and that we’re going to be able to help them complete their CNO requirements so that they can move on to to being nurses.”

Kafli agreed that financial barriers are a big part of why some IENs won’t end up becoming nurses.

“If you have a family support, you will be able to pursue whatever you want to be, but it’s not the case for everyone. So unfortunately, I have seen some some of my classmates from George Brown College or even from working, colleagues not being able to pursue what they want to because of other financial issues or like their family responsibilities, so it’s not always easy, and I have seen that,” she said.

Kafli left other nurses with an encouraging messages as they navigate registering.

“Please do not lose hope … If you decided to be here and to be an international nurse here in Canada, please have that patience. Keep working hard. I’m here. If you want to be connected. I’m here at Sunnybrook. I can provide some mentoring if needed.”




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