McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

McMaster project will help internationally educated nurses adapt to Canada

Published: May 11, 2015
Andrea Baumann
Andrea Baumann, scientific director, NHSRU, Associate Vice-President, Global Health

Many internationally educated nurses (IENs) come to Canada with more than a decade of nursing experience. They can give needles, perform physical assessments and care for patients, but often they need appropriate orientation to workplace culture to be ready to practise in Ontario hospitals.

With the goal of helping more newly hired IENs to be successful here, professor Andrea Baumann and her team at McMaster's Nursing Health Services Research Unit (NHSRU) are partnering with health care employers in Ontario to create an orientation and onboarding training program for new IENs. It will include symposiums, webinars and the creation of an employment manual.

The research team has received $1.3 million over three years from the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade for the project: Partnering with Employers: Increasing IEN Employment in Healthcare Organizations.

Ruth Lee, chief of nursing practice at Hamilton Health Sciences, is one of the health care employers involved with the study. She said IEN's have the fundamental nursing skills, knowledge and judgment to care for patients, but need support with language skills, terminology and learning to communicate effectively in an unfamiliar environment.

"We need to educate both employers and internationally-educated nurses," said Lee. "The cultural gap is something we need to address."

Lee gave the example that in the U.K. the term OT refers to the operating theatre, while in Canada OT means occupational therapy.

"In many cultures answering back is not respectful, but here we expect an answer," she added, as another example. "A non-response is often misinterpreted as incompetent."

Baumann, scientific director of the NHSRU site at McMaster University, said there is a qualified pool of IENs who are prepared and available for hire in Ontario.

"It's important to have a health workforce that can provide care to Ontario's diverse communities," she said. "IENs reflect the diversity of the patient population and they offer valuable experience and additional language skills."

Onboarding is also known as organizational socialization and refers to how new employees adapt to a workplace's culture. Baumann said the new orientation and onboarding training program they are designing will help employers succeed in integrating IENs. She added: "We hope to encourage system changes at the health care provider level with successful integration."

The project builds upon the research unit's earlier partnership with the Ontario Hospital Association to create an online guide for employers to assist them and potential employers of IENs.

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