Wednesday, January 26, 2022

‘We can help’: internationally trained nurses eager to work in Canada

TORONTO – The Omicron-driven surge in COVID-19 infections is compounding a shortage of nurses in Canadian hospitals. But there are thousands of nurses trained internationally who say they can reduce the strain on the health care system if given the opportunity to work.

“We can help. Like, guys. We’re here. And we’ve been trained and working for so many years. We hope they can consider us,” Antoinette Licuan told CTV News .

Likuan was a nurse in the Philippines for seven years before moving to Ontario, but she couldn’t work as a nurse until she completed a lengthy, complicated and expensive certification process.

“Every country, they have different standards. But (at the same time) … I know for a fact how hard it is for all the health care teams all over the world,” she said.

There is good news for some of the internationally trained nurses in Ontario. The province announced on Tuesday that 1,200 of these nurses would be matched to hospitals and long-term care homes to address immediate staffing shortages.

But some nurses, even after obtaining the appropriate certification, cannot practice because of delays in the immigration process.

Carla Ducusin is a registered nurse in Ontario and previously worked as a nurse in the Philippines for four years. But even though she has the right credentials, she is still waiting for immigration officials to process her permanent residency application, which she submitted in October 2020.

“It’s very, very depressing, honestly. I saw the news, I read in articles that nurses have been burned. Nurses are exhausted. They are tired of working overtime,” she told CTV News. “Here we are. We can help.”

Dukusin had worked hard to obtain his nursing credentials in Ontario, a process that depleted all of his savings. But pandemic-related delays in immigration processing have left him in limbo.

“With immigration documents, I don’t have it. I’ve just been released. It’s like my life has come to a halt. I’m just waiting and waiting and nothing is happening. This Very disappointing,” she said.

Shortage of nurses was an issue before the pandemic. But the rise of the Omicron variant has led to increased infections among nurses, who will have to isolate and be unable to work. On top of that, hospitalizations and ICU admissions are increasing, putting further strain on the health care system.

“Things have potential … they’re just worse and we’re not in a good place already,” said Morgan Hoffarth, president of the Association of Registered Nurses of Ontario.

The association says there are about 15,000 internationally educated nurses in the province who are not practicing in their field, even though they may be.

“That’s a huge number, and it will help our health care system,” Hoffarth said.

“In the next four to six weeks. We need help. We need bodies. We need to fast-track registrations and work permits for internationally educated nurses.”

There is a similar story on the West Coast. The BC Nurses Association also wants to simplify the process of certification for internationally educated nurses.

“There are a ton of nurses in B.C. who are internationally educated nurses and it’s so expensive for them to go through the licensing hoops and hurdles,” Dennett Thomson, the union’s interim vice president, told CTV News. “It’s an untapped resource.”

Even before getting all the proper certifications, Thomson says nurses like Liquan may be hired to do non-critical tasks right now and take some of the load off other nurses.

“Our nurses are saying their patient’s weight is two to two-and-a-half times more than normal. It’s impossible to deliver safe patient care,” Thomson said.

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