St. Michael’s Hospital partners with community to help remove barriers for foreign-trained professionals

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Maureen De Ramos says it’s all about giving back to a program that helped her realize her dream to work as a nurse in Canada. Since this past November, Maureen has been working closely with a student from her home country of the Philippines to help him meet Ontario nursing standards and pass the licensing exam.

“I know the pressure he will be feeling when he takes the exam,” she says. “The licensing requirements for nursing are much different in Canada than they are in the Philippines, so the exam can be very difficult if you are not prepared.”

When Maureen, who acquired her training in general medicine in the Philippines, first came to Canada in 1998 she was not successful in passing the exam and quickly realized that she was not as prepared as she could have been. “I knew right away that I needed further education. That’s when I stumbled upon the CARE for Nurses Project.”

The Creating Access to Regulated Employment (CARE) for Nurses Project is a pilot program, to help foreign-trained nurses, who are residents, landed immigrants, or have refugee status in Toronto, gain speedier access to the profession in the province.

Seeing the value of the CARE for Nurses Project, St. Michael’s Hospital has taken a leadership role in supporting the project. Sylvia Halliday, vice-president, Human Resources, says it has been very worthwhile for the hospital. “Not only has the project opened doors for many skilled individuals having difficulty finding employment, it has enabled our hospital to address nursing shortages and add new skills and expertise to our diverse workforce,” she says. “We have found the project to be an excellent recruitment initiative. Since the start of the project, St. Michael’s has hired 15 registered nurses for various areas across the hospital.”

St. Michael’s Hospital recruitment co-ordinator Elaine Burr says she is a huge supporter of the program because of the difference she has seen it make. “Many internationally educated nurses – though highly skilled – have not been successful in writing their exam to practice in Ontario,” she says. “What this project does is provide the tools and education needed to assist them in successfully writing the qualifying licensing exam.” As an RN herself, Elaine has worked in Saudi Arabia, Australia and Canada, so she knows how difficult it can be.

A number of resources and services are made available to the participants including courses offered through participating colleges and universities. As a sponsor of the program, St. Michael’s Hospital offers financial assistance for selected applicants, facilitates employer placements where participants “shadow” a senior RN in a clinical setting, and provides Education Days where St. Michael’s staff conduct valuable lectures and answer questions.

For Maureen, the project has been invaluable. “I successfully passed the exam in January 2002 and was later hired by St. Michael’s Hospital to work in the General Internal Medicine unit as a staff nurse.” Since qualifying, Maureen has continued with her education by taking courses in coronary care and now hopes to gain further experience in a critical care setting.

Statistics also confirm the success of the CARE for Nurses Project with 74 per cent of all CARE participants successfully passing the exam, compared to a 31 per cent success rate for those who do not participate in the project.

“I am forever grateful to the CARE for Nurses Project and St. Michael’s Hospital for helping me when I came to Canada,” says Maureen. “This opportunity helped me gain the experience and confidence I needed to realize my dream of working as a nurse in Canada.”