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Provinces attempting to make it simpler for nurses with overseas training to practice in Canada

British Columbia and Ontario are working to reduce barriers for nurses with international education due to a critical shortage of registered nurses.

Internationally educated nurses (IENs) will no longer face some of the obstacles to registration that were previously in place, according to recent announcements from British Columbia. To do this, it will eliminate application costs and offer fresh financial aid to nurses who are rejoining the workforce after a break.

The application and assessment expenses for IENs, which can cost more than $3,700, will now be covered, according to the province. In addition, the province will contribute up to $4,000 per person toward assessments and legitimate travel expenses for nurses who are resuming their careers after a break.

Premier David Eby says, “Supporting nurses is key to our work to making health care accessible to all British Columbians. Still, the demand for nurses is outpacing the supply. There are talented and skilled nurses with the right experience who want to practice in BC and support high-quality care, but they are kept on the sidelines by an expensive and complicated registration process. Whether a nurse was trained in or out of the province, we are ready to welcome those who are ready to care for British Columbians.”

In April 2022, the BC government announced $12 million in scholarships for IENs. Five thousand people in British Columbia have indicated an interest in nursing since the funding announcement. 2,000 of them are actively attempting to finish the registration and evaluation process.

In all, after the modifications, the BC College of Nurses and Midwives received more than 90% more nursing applications in 2022.

Ontario is likewise attempting to retain and hire more IENs.

Similar steps were taken by Ontario last October to make it easier for IENs to travel. The Ontario Ministry of Health, the Ontario College of Nurses, and the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons all made modifications in October, including:

  • Enabling nurses with international training to enroll in a temporary class and start working sooner while they pursue full registration;

  • Providing flexibility to the condition that they must have practiced nursing within a particular amount of time before seeking reinstatement, and making it simpler for retired or non-practicing nurses to return to the field;

  • Making it simpler for doctors from other provinces and territories to work for up to 90 days in Ontario by establishing a new temporary independent practice registration class.

These actions marked the start of a longer-term strategy. On January 1st of this year, additional measures for IENs went into force. These measures will hasten the registration process and have a favorable impact:

  • Requiring health regulatory colleges to adhere to deadlines for decision-making regarding registration;

  • With limited exceptions, such as when similar international experience is allowed, prohibiting health regulatory colleges from requiring Canadian work experience for the purpose of registration; and

  • Accepting language exams that have been authorized by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) in order to limit the number of applicants to Canada who must undergo additional language testing.

Ontario supported approximately 800 IENs between January of last year and October by increasing funds for the partnership program for supervised practice experiences. By the end of March of this year, the province anticipates that number to reach 1,000.

Similar to BC, Ontario is temporarily covering the cost of the College of Nurses of Ontario’s examination, application, and registration costs, which can be as high as $1,500. Last but not least, Ontario has spent $764 million to offer up to $5,000 in retention bonuses to Ontario nurses.

Why is Canada making a such big effort to recruit healthcare professionals?

The burden on Canada’s healthcare system is brought on by a number of causes, including an aging population. This indicates that more individuals are in need of healthcare and that many healthcare professionals are also nearing retirement age.

In addition, according to a report by the Canadian Federation of Nurses Union, there was already considerable pressure and a nursing shortage prior to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Many healthcare workers had to take extensive leaves for their mental health or left the industry altogether because they were working unheard-of long shifts with little time off during the height of the pandemic.

The most number of open positions across all industries, according to Statistics Canada, was in the health care and social support sector in October at 151,200, which was essentially unchanged from the record high of 152,800 in July. According to the most recent data, which covers December, employment in the social assistance and healthcare sectors is continuing to decline, with Ontario experiencing the greatest number of job losses.

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