This month, a group of University of Manitoba nursing faculty assessors will travel to the Philippines to perform in-person clinical competency assessments for 20 internationally educated Filipino nurses.

According to the province, almost 90 percent of the 348 candidates who were offered jobs during a February recruitment mission have accepted positions in the healthcare field in Manitoba.

“More than 300 internationally educated healthcare professionals have now accepted job offers to work as registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, or healthcare aides in communities located right across our province,” says Health Minister Audrey Gordon. “Our government is committed to healing our healthcare system and building our health human resource capacity so that more patients have access to the care they need.”

The provincial government is funding the first round of direct assessments at a cost of around $100,000.

 At the same time, work is being done close to home on the development of a virtual competency assessment. In collaboration with World Citi Colleges, a leading educational institute with locations across the Philippines, future rounds of international applicants may be assessed from abroad.

“Leading up to the arrival of these new registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and healthcare aides, we are focused on ensuring a smooth arrival with travel and accommodation arranged for them, orientation and mentorship to their future work location, and settlement services in the community that they will soon call home,” says Monika Warren, chief nursing officer for Shared Health. “Candidates have been assessed for skills and experience as well as any existing connections to a Manitoba community before being offered a role in a specific location.”

A request for proposal has been issued by Shared Health for assistance in locating safe, affordable housing for new recruits across the province.

“The desire amongst Filipino healthcare workers to live and work in Manitoba remains high,” says Labour and Immigration Minister Jon Reyes. “The connections between Manitoba’s local Filipino community and those who remain in the Philippines cannot be overstated. Manitoba is known as an extremely welcoming and friendly province, a place where dreams and success can be achieved through determination and hard work, and a community where the contributions of healthcare workers are valued. We look forward to giving them a warm welcome when they arrive in our province.”

Immigration and licensing processes are underway for many of the Filipino candidates. Arrivals are expected to begin in late summer or fall.

Darlene Jackson is the president of the Manitoba Nurses Union (MNU). She says her union has been in talks with Shared Health for five years regarding the local healthcare crisis.

At this stage, she adds, several hundred nursing recruits will barely scratch the surface of the current 2,800 vacant nursing positions.

She welcomes these new international recruits but says it’s important to look at this strategy with a level of pragmatism.

Of the potential 300 recruits, Jackson estimates that maybe two-thirds of them will have RN or LPN training ,while the rest will be healthcare aids. For those nurses, she adds, there’s still a long road ahead before they’ll be ready to work here.

“[The recruits] have not done their clinical competency assessment, nor have they done, I believe, their English proficiency exam,” Jackson told The Citizen. “Both of those are very big hoops to jump through. So I’m not confident that we’re going to be getting all of them, although I truly hope that we do.”

Even if they pass this first round of testing, she says it’ll take another three to four months before the College of Registered Nurses will be ready to make a decision on whether the international candidates need more education or skill-building work before they can begin practicing.

Then there’s the matter of providing adequate supports for them once they are working in the system.

“We absolutely welcome any help we can get,” says Jackson. “However, we’ve made it very clear to Shared Health and the government that you can’t bring in internationally educated nurses and drop them in Canada without support and mentoring and ensuring that they’re going to be successful here.”

For proper mentorship and support to take place, the province will need to work just as hard at retaining the nurses currently in the system. Without that work, recruiting new international nurses may be putting the cart before the horse.

“We have to look at retention to ensure that the nurses that we have here stay in the system until we can turn this ship around,” Jackson says. “We need our experienced nurses to be mentoring and supporting the new nurses.”

It’s not just the experienced nurses leaving the public healthcare field for greener pastures. Retention efforts also need to take place for newly trained nurses coming out of local colleges.

“[Right now], they are fleeing as fast as they’re getting here, saying the workload is unsustainable for them,” Jackson says. “Or they realize it’s not what they thought it was going to be. Because a lot of these nurses go into nursing thinking that they’re going to develop a relationship with the patients and, with the workload right now, that is almost impossible to do.”

As a result, many of Manitoba’s nurses are being lost to private clinics or the cosmetic industry. Others are simply re-educating themselves for a different profession altogether.

To Jackson, who’s been in the nursing profession for 42 years, Manitoba’s healthcare system is on life support and it’ll take more than a booster shot of international nursing recruits to bring it back from the brink.

By Brenda Sawatzky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 11, 2023 at 09:47

This item reprinted with permission from   The Citizen   Niverville, Manitoba
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