Work-ready nurses for multicultural health care in Ontario


CARE Centre for Internationally Educated Nurses (IENs) recently celebrated its tenth anniversary, and over those ten years has helped more than 1,000 nurses from 140 countries to achieve registration to practice in Ontario. Nurses are often called the backbone of the health care system, the largest employee group in the sector. In the Greater Toronto Area, fully 25 per cent of nurses received their nursing education in countries other than Canada, with IENs comprising 10 per cent of the workforce in other parts of Ontario. Half of the GTA’s 5.5 million residents are new Canadians, with 60 per cent of immigrants to Canada settling in Ontario.

“While these numbers are already significant, with population forecasts, we can see why IENs in the nursing workforce are more important than ever,” says Zubeida Ramji, CARE Centre’s Executive Director. “Particularly in the long-term care sector, we are seeing culturally-centered facilities on the increase, and nurses who can speak different languages and bring experience from their countries of origin are of huge benefit. Working with CARE Centre, nurses learn occupational-specific communication skills, take courses on nursing in Ontario, and can quickly achieve their registration to practice. We’ve seen the need for our program spread throughout southern Ontario as cities other than Toronto actively recruit immigrants to settle in their communities.”

CARE Centre develops a customized plan of action to each IEN who joins as a new member, and provides a range of programs including a Nursing Readiness Assessment, Exam Preparation, and Language and Communication for Nurses (LCN). LCN offers a specially designed curriculum, which is now available for health care organizations to deliver to their own employees. CARE Centre works with other major health care providers for its observational job shadowing program, where member IENs learn from expert nurses on the job.  Ninety percent of CARE Centre graduates obtain employment within a year of passing their registration exams.

CARE Centre is a not-for-profit, registered charity funded by the Government of Ontario, which receives support for some skills training programs from the Government of Canada. Headquartered in Toronto, CARE Centre has a secondary office in Hamilton serving Kitchener-Waterloo and the Niagara and Halton regions. This past summer CARE Centre opened a satellite office to serve Peel Region, and also has offices in London and Windsor. In early 2012 the organization will make an announcement concerning further expansion in southern Ontario. With ten years of operation, CARE Centre is now seeing its earlier graduates move into more senior roles in nursing where they can mentor more IENs as they integrate on the job. To celebrate the achievements of its member IENs as they take their places in the Ontario workforce, CARE Centre launched The CARE Centre Joan Lesmond IEN of the Year Award, named after the late distinguished nursing leader.

The inaugural winner is Loy Asheri, a registered nurse originally from Tanzania who obtained her registration in Ontario in 2004. Asheri is currently employed at Sunnybrook health Sciences Centre in the cardiovascular intensive care unit, and recently joined CARE Centre as a part-time case manager, where she will guide new member IENs on their journey to establishing their nursing careers in Ontario.

CARE Centre Executive Director Zubeida Ramji says, “With Loy Asheri becoming part of our case management team, we have marked an important milestone for CARE Centre. Just as we were guided by leading organizations and individuals in the nursing, healthcare and settlement fields, now our graduates can give back to these communities by supporting a new generation of IENs. It’s a promise fulfilled for Loy and our organization together.”

Says Asheri, “As a single mom of four young children, coming to a foreign country was a big challenge: financially, psychologically, socially and emotionally. I also had to face all the frustrations and uncertainties which came with the licensing process. My story changed, however, when I joined CARE Centre. I was overwhelmed and honoured to be the first recipient of the award. It gives me great courage and energy to continue expanding on my career. It’s also real evidence of what CARE Centre does: it’s shown through me receiving this award.”

CARE Centre holds regular information sessions for IENs to find out more about its services. The one-time membership fee is $125. Check the website to register. The CARE Centre Joan Lesmond IEN of the Year Award will be presented annually with the call for nominations in May and the award ceremony taking place in November. The 2012 nomination kit with detailed eligibility criteria and submission form will also be available on the CARE Centre website: