I am guest-writing CARE Centre for Internationally Educated Nurses’ executive director’s message, as the publication of this newsletter finds CARE Centre still dealing with the aftermath of a 30 per cent funding cut at the beginning of 2013. CARE Centre understands, perhaps more than most (given the harsh fiscal realities of many of our members’ home countries), that we live in challenging times and governments have many responsibilities to meet. We know that in balancing budgets and evaluating competing demands, our elected officials and our provincial ministries have difficult decisions to make, especially with federal priorities and transfer payments having seen significant changes in recent years. However, and this is our big however, CARE Centre’s board of directors, its staff, its many supporters (both individual and organizational) and most especially its thousands of members, do not agree that a bridge training program that was both the first of its kind and an unequalled success over 12 years, should be handicapped by such a significant reduction in funding.
As is available on our website and reported in our audited financial statements every year, CARE Centre does amazing work assisting internationally educated nurses in achieving their licence to practice in Ontario on extremely modest budgets. Extending from the nursing field, settlement services, and the professional educational field, CARE Centre gives incredible dollar-for-dollar value that ultimately increases the viability of Ontario’s healthcare sector. We all know the reality of, and have read the projected statistics for, the increasing diversity of Ontario’s population where already today IENs make up 25 percent of the GTA’s workforce and 10-15 percent in other places in the province. IENs reflect the patients and clients they serve, in hospitals and long-term care homes, in schools and the community, and in the homes of Ontarians.
Interesting information about Ontario’s population growth and change are available on the website fin.gov.on.ca/en/economy/demographics/projections/#s2. Two facts we know incontrovertibly: we will have a huge number of seniors to care for with the aging of the baby boom, and immigration to our province, the number one destination for Canadian newcomers for decades, will continue to grow, with ethnic communities equalling more traditional Canadian populations within the next few years. How should we best care for these significant demographics? With internationally-educated, globally experienced nursing professionals who have cultural and language skills they can bring to the workplace to augment and enhance the kind of healthcare excellence that is our Canadian nursing tradition. The federal department of immigration has identified nurses as one of their priority occupations for skilled newcomers, as many areas of the country are experiencing a nursing shortage, also acknowledging that when Canada’s baby boom nurses also retire, those positions will also be hard to fill.
Because IENs cannot easily resume their nursing careers when they arrive here. The College of Nurses of Ontario is an exacting regulatory body, and has recently shortened the recent practice window for IENs, instituted a jurisprudence exam, and put a deadline on completion of the application process, amongst other measures. IENs, who may be working under two-year agreements as live-in caregivers only have two years from their last day working as a nurse in their home country to pass their exams to practice in Ontario. Without the assistance of a specialized, may we say expert bridging program like CARE Centre to guide them on their registration journey, many IENs will never be able to return to their passion for nursing.
We hope you’ll write to your own MPP or cabinet ministers, some of whom are identified at the beginning of our Intake section, which welcomes our new Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Michael Coteau. Send them a letter of support for CARE Centre, expressing how much you value our organization and our thousands of member IENs. You may want to ask for restored funding for CARE Centre, or you may just want to add your voice to all those who already recognize IENs as essential to serving the healthcare needs of Ontario families. Either way, we appreciate the expression of your commendation for CARE Centre; please cc. Executive Director Susan VanDeVelde-Coke at SVanDeVelde@care4nurses.org. Thank you so much for your support.