Manitoba should focus on registering local internationally trained nurses, not recruiting abroad: association

A delegation from Manitoba is going to the Philippines next month hoping to recruit hundreds of nurses to work in the province, but a group representing local nurses trained overseas says that time and money could be better spent helping those struggling to break into the workforce.

Marco Pena, the head of the Philippine Nurses Association of Manitoba, says the province should be investing more in internationally educated nurses who are already here, but are facing barriers to becoming registered.

“Every year I know someone who leaves the province to practise somewhere. Some go to Ontario, some go to the United States, and it’s constant, it’s every year,” Pena said.

He says these nurses go where they can register quickly with the results of a nursing licence exam that’s acceptable in other jurisdictions, and where their English language exam is waived.

Those who stay in the province go into other areas of health care.

But they could be working to alleviate the nursing shortage, Pena says.

That nursing shortage is what the province is attempting to address in the February recruitment trip to Manila, Cebu City and Iloilo between Feb. 21-25.

Applicants in the Philippines will be pre-screened, with a focus on finding internationally educated nurses (IENs) who have at least two years experience in acute or long-term care. They will also have to complete an English language test.

It might take some time before they begin working at a Manitoba health-care facility because of immigration pathways.

Pena says there are IENs in Manitoba already, but they may be lacking some recent clinical experience because of the barriers they’ve faced trying to become registered with the College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba.

“They’re out of practice because it’s been a long time before Manitoba noticed that this is a problem,” Pena said.

Martin Lussier, the manager of communications for the college, says work is being done to break down those barriers.

There are a number of changes to the application process, including lower scores necessary for English language proficiency tests and the ability to retake their clinical competency test if they fail the first time.

Recruitment abroad is happening in tandem with supports for local IENs, a government spokesperson told CBC News in an email on Friday.

The spokesperson says these nurses are given bridge training, living allowance, transportation and child care, as well as access to caseworkers to help navigate the licensing process.

It says 23 nurses have joined Manitoba’s health-care system since it issued a compliance order to the College of Registered Nurses to remove its requirement that nurses licensed in other jurisdictions be subject to further testing if they are trying to be accredited in this province.

The head of the Manitoba Nurses Union is also supportive of the recruitment efforts.

“Although Manitoba’s situation is worse than most, the reality is that we’re not the only ones competing in the nursing marketplace. However, if it delivers as promised, we will take any help we can get,” said Darlene Jackson in a statement.

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