A New Approach to Nursing Recruitment: The Creating Access to Regulated Employment for Nurses (CARE) Project

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As hospitals grapple with the challenge of how best to recruit and retain nurses, an innovative pilot program called “CARE for Nurses” highlights a promising new approach to the recruitment challenge.

CARE for Nurses is a two-year pilot project designed to assist internationally educated nurses living in Ontario to prepare for the registration exam and obtain employment as nurses. Funded by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and supported by a consortium of health and community agencies, the project addresses the all-too-familiar barriers that many highly skilled newcomers face in trying to practice their profession in Canada.

The CARE Project specifically targets nurses who have been assessed by the College of Nurses as “exam eligible” with no gaps in their education and practice. Many are highly trained with language capacity and diverse cultural and ethno-racial backgrounds that reflect the make-up of Ontarians. About 260 participants are currently enrolled and over 44 countries from around the world are represented.

By offering a carefully integrated mix of training, hospital placement and mentoring activities, participants learn what they need to know to pass the registration exam and integrate smoothly into the Ontario workforce. For example, a “Nursing In Ontario” course provides information about practice standards, legislation and scope of practice for nurses in Ontario; an English Communication for Nurses course focuses on health care terminology and the nuances of nursing “language” in a Canadian clinical context. A hospital placement program provides “job shadowing” and other professional development opportunities within partner health institutions. And CARE’s mentoring initiative connects internationally trained nurses with seasoned veterans of the Canadian health system. CARE courses are offered for a fee by George Brown and Centennial College and other support services are offered for free.

So far, nine health-care organizations in the GTA are partnering with CARE. While each partnership works a little differently, the basic idea is this: CARE participants are matched with employed nurses in the hospital. CARE participants are able to “shadow” these nurses throughout his/her shift in order to gain a better understanding of the day-to-day realities of an RN/RPN in Ontario. CARE participants also benefit from participating in the hospital and nurse orientations, professional development seminars, case conferences and other in-service opportunities. A number of hospitals are also providing tuition assistance/sponsorship funds to help individuals cover the cost of course fees. For a number of CARE participants, this financial assistance has enabled them to participate in courses that they would not otherwise have been able to afford.

The hospital partnership has provided a unique and important opportunity for CARE participants. Amandeep Saini is from India and has 13 years experience as a pediatric nurse. She did her employer partnership with the Hospital for Sick Children. She says “My partner was fabulous. I watched her working in the neonatal follow-up clinic. She helped build up my confidence because watching her I realized that how things are done here are not always so different from how they are done in India. I have now passed my exam. I would love to work at Sick Kids. The staff there really work as a team.”

The benefit for hospitals, of course, is having preferred access to a group of highly skilled nurses, like Amandeep, who will soon be in a position to take on employment as RNs or RPNs. As Mary Jo Haddad, V.P. of Child Health Services and Chief Nursing Officer at the Hospital for Sick Children says, “As a pediatric hospital, to be able to access pediatric nurses with experience has been a phenomenal opportunity for Sick Kids.” Dauna Crooks, Director of Nursing Education Services adds, “For Sick Kids, this has been an exciting venture. It has stretched us and stretched the participants. What has been most exciting, is the number of (CARE) nurses who have been hired because of this partnership. It has also been a great experience for preceptors.”

St. Michael’s Hospital has already hired nine CARE participants who are working in: the Level 2 Nursury, in neurotrama, on the, ortho floor, on the haemodialysis unit and in general medicine. According to Elaine Burr, Recruitment Co-ordinator at St. Michael’s Hospital, “I look at all and any opportunities to attract the ‘brightest and the best’ to work for us. And looking at statistics from career fairs I’ve attended and analyzing cost per hire, it’s very clear to me that CARE offers a wonderful, cost-effective and untapped resource of people right in our own back yard. With a little support and orientation they translate into dedicated, loyal employees.”

To find out more about the CARE Project please call 416-406-6166 ext. 24 or email at info@care4nurses.org