McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Too few internationally educated nurses entering workforce

Published: December 20 , 2006
Andrea Baumann
McMaster's Andrea Baumann was an investigator on a study of the experiences of foreign-trained nurses in Ontario.

By Theresa Noonan

Ontario has the second highest percentage of internationally educated registered nurses in Canada, but many of them never become employed as professional nurses, a McMaster University study says.

Internationally Educated Nurses in Ontario: Maximizing the Brain Gain highlights the challenges Internationally Educated Nurses (IENs) face in becoming licensed and entering the workforce in Canada.

The study authored by Dr. Jennifer Blythe was commissioned by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to determine what helps or hinders IENs from entering the Ontario healthcare system workforce. The research team from McMaster's Nursing Health Services Research Unit (NHSRU) interviewed IENs and other stakeholders such as educators, employers and members of nursing and migrant support organizations. They found that IENs face barriers to entering the workforce at all stages of the process, from the time they enter Canada to if or when they start work in a new position.

Dr. Andrea Baumann, an investigator on the study and co-director of the McMaster site of NHSRU, says the failure in the system extends from the migration interview to integration into the workforce.

The majority of IENs suffer delays and difficulty in registration. An estimated 40 per cent never complete the registration process.

"We need to make sure IENs are provided with the right information on licensing, educational options and the labour market before they enter Canada," says Baumann.

Lack of information from the Canadian government prior to migration was one hurdle identified for immigrants with limited knowledge about nursing in Canada.

According to the study, there are various bridging and upgrading programs with different opportunities and restrictions for IENs who require additional qualifications to be eligible to practise nursing. Most of these programs are relatively new and funded on a temporary basis.

The study identified the need for a permanent and consistent funding model for upgrading and bridging nurses into the system, in order to have more IENs successfully enter the workforce.

The researchers have made recommendations for several groups, including the government, licensing and professional bodies, educators, employers and other researchers.

The report is available on the Nursing Health Services Research Unit website.

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