With a new $12 million fund, British Columbia will make it easier and less expensive for foreign-trained nurses to have their credentials recognised for Canadian immigration.
According to Michael McMillan, president and chief executive officer of the Health Employers Association of BC, this investment is an exciting step toward providing more support for internationally-educated nurses who want to work in British Columbia.
“Health Match BC is excited to be a partner with the ministry, British Columbia College of Nurses and Midwives (BCCNM) and Nursing Community Assessment Service (NCAS) to support this initiative,” says McMillan. “Work will include a new marketing campaign to promote B.C. and a new provincial website to provide information on available supports. Health Match BC will also provide recruitment navigation support and administer bursaries to help IENS overcome barriers and encourage them to build their future in B.C.”
The new investment from Canada’s westernmost province includes approximately $9 million in bursaries to assist foreign-trained nurses in paying assessment fees to have their credentials recognised here. This is expected to benefit approximately 1,500 nurses in the first year.
The remaining $3 million will be used to consolidate provincially-based assessment processes for foreign-trained nurses, as well as to create nurse navigator positions to assist nurses from other countries who come to Canada with the assessment and licencing process.
“Our government is committed to addressing the province’s demand for nurses. That’s why we’re launching this comprehensive suite of supports for internationally educated nurses to help them put their skills to use here in B.C.,”said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health.
“We are very pleased to be supporting BCCNM in developing the triple-track assessment process and to work with HMBC to provide financial and logistical support for internationally educated nurses. Removing some financial barriers and streamlining the assessment process will facilitate pathways to employment in the province and ensure British Columbians have access to the health care they deserve with even more nurses and healthcare assistants.”
The British Columbia Nurses’ Union, which has over 48,000 members, bemoaned a chronic nursing shortage in the province, which dates back several years, as well as difficult working conditions, in a report released last autumn. Multiple assessments and document submissions to various organisations are required as part of the process.
Bursaries will be offered to foreign-trained nurses as part of the latest government initiative to help offset the costs of assessment services, language testing, skill evaluation, and educational upgrading. Bursaries will range from $1,500 to $16,000, depending on the level of assessment or upgrading required.
The new nurse navigators will assist foreign-trained nurses in navigating the various testing and assessments required to practise in British Columbia. They will also provide immigration and licencing assistance, relocation information, and job placement and work opportunities assistance.
“Finally, we are moving ahead, and I have envisioned and hoped for this to happen for my fellow internationally-educated nurses,” says Jennie Arceno, a registered nurse who herself was foreign-trained before coming to work in Canada.
“This will surely motivate and help those who are in the process of obtaining their registration. During my time, it was very tedious and I was about to lose hope, but I kept looking at the words ‘RN’ and I know that I will obtain it, again. The struggles that I went through fuelled my passion in advocating for my fellow internationally-trained nurses, and knowing it’s slowly happening is just surreal.”
Before the pandemic, Ottawa’s Jobbank employment website predicted a shortage of 36,500 nurses from 2019 to 2028. A nurse in the Canadian territory of Nunavut can earn a median annual wage of $169,045 based on a 37.5-hour workweek at the top of the wage scale. Based on that standard workweek, the median annual wage for nurses in Canada is $78,000.
Foreign citizens with the qualifications to work as nurses in Canada can use their expertise to find jobs and acquire permanent residency through the many economic immigration programmes available at the federal and provincial levels, such as the Express Entry system, one of the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP), or the Skilled Worker programme in Quebec.
Nurses can often qualify for the Federal Skilled Worker programme through the Express Entry system if their Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) profile is high enough. Nurses can also come to Canada through Quebec’s Skilled Worker programme if they score 50 points or higher on the province’s selection grid.
In addition, each province in Canada has its own PNP that leads to Canadian permanent residence. Registered nurses with a university degree in nursing, registered psychiatric nurses with a bachelor’s or post-graduate degree in psychiatric nursing, and licenced practical nurses with post-secondary diplomas in nursing are all welcome in Canada.
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