Helping immigrant nurses a ‘win-win’ for Canada: Study

November 1, 2015

By Nicholas Keung, Toronto Star |

As baby boomers age, Canada faces a looming health-care crunch that will be exacerbated by a projected shortage of tens of thousands of nurses.

That makes it more important than ever for Canada to help foreign-trained nurses qualify to practice here, according to a Conference Board of Canada study.

Each dollar invested by Ottawa and provincial governments in helping registered nurses acquire Canadian licences generates $9 in future income tax revenue — a nine-fold return, according to the study — not to mention their contributions to the care of the country’s rapidly aging population.

With seniors outnumbering children for the first time ever, according to new Statistics Canada figures, and a projected shortage of 60,000 nurses by 2022, investing in bridging programs makes immense sense, experts say.

“This is a win-win for Canada and the internationally educated nurses (IEN),” said Michael Bloom, the conference board’s vice-president in charge of industry and business strategy. “The concept of investing in career bridging programs is good and sound. It yields returns.”

According to the study, more than half of immigrants with health professional backgrounds have trouble getting their foreign credentials recognized in Canada, compared to just 40 per cent in other regulated professions.

In 2011, only 54 per cent of foreign-born and educated nurses had a job that matched their education in Ontario, with unemployment rates among foreign-trained registered nurses at 6 per cent and 8.3 per cent among registered practical nurses.
The job match rate also varies by the nurses’ country of origin, with 70 per cent of Irish nurses registered compared to just 25 per cent for their Southeast Asian counterparts.

There are 35 career-bridging programs available for foreign-trained nurses, 12 based in Ontario. Researchers did a cost-benefit analysis based on government funding and projected income tax revenues of the IENs who successfully obtained their licences.
They found it costs taxpayers $11,270 to help a foreign-trained nurse get registered in Ontario as an RN or RPN in the best scenario where the applicant needs little support and few courses at a post-secondary institution to upgrade their skills to meet Canadian standards.

A typical case costs about $13,441 while a very complex one can cost as much as $30,400.

The investment may seem huge, but Bloom said Canada would receive an additional $9,135 in income tax revenue from each IEN who obtained RN registration and $4,522 from each one registered as an RPN. (The study said the return for investment in an RPN is three times the cost.)

Internationally educated nurses (IENs) “choose Canada as their home, and bring their passion for nursing to this country,” said Joanne Roth, interim executive director of the CARE Centre for Internationally Educated Nurses. “They also invest their own money in passing exams and returning to practice. It’s in everyone’s interest to help newcomer professionals succeed.”

Rola Moubadder moved to Toronto in 2010 from Lebanon after spending a decade in Dubai training nurses there. With help from the CARE Centre, she was registered as an RN here in 2012.

“There’s no clear pathway to go through the process. There are a lot of things IENs do not know about,” said Moubadder, who has since returned to teaching in Canada. “Every time an immigrant asks me about getting back into nursing, I tell them please contact CARE.”

Ghanaian-trained RN Jane Kwansah, another CARE graduate, said she was not surprised by the enormous contributions of foreign-trained nurses.

“Nurses always refer to their profession as a calling,” said Kwansah, who came here in 2010 and now works as a public health nurse. “Helping them gain recognition for their credentials and experience, and with bridging any educational gaps, will consistently pay huge dividends in that investment.”

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