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[Report] Filipino IENs in Ontario want to help fight the pandemic, but there are obstacles

The Ontario Nurses Association encourages internationally educated nurses (IENs) to return to the profession and not give up on the registration process.

According to the Ontario Nurses’ Association, there is a shortage of 22,000 nurses in the province (archives).
PHOTO: (SUBMITTED BY AHS/LEAH HENNEL)

According to the Ontario Nurses’ Association, there is a shortage of 22,000 nurses in the province (archives). PHOTO: (SUBMITTED BY AHS/LEAH HENNEL)

Photo: (Submitted by AHS/Leah Hennel)

RCI

Angela Preocanin, First Vice-President of the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA), revealed the alarming scale of the nursing shortage in hospitals and health care settings in Ontario.

The real issue here is we have at least 22,000 short [of nurses] in the province of Ontario. So adding any additional registered nurses to the province is a good thing. Unfortunately, with the number of internationally educated nurses, we do have that disconnect where they have to register and they have to go through the process, which takes a long time for them to gain their skills and their proficiency in the English language to be able to register. So it’s a really great move to try and expedite this through the College of Nurses, Preocanin said to Radio Canada International.

The vacancy rate in the hospitals particularly are staggering. We have a hospital that has 800 vacancies for nursing positions. It’s one hospital, for one of our biggest hospitals in the province.

Therefore, when the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) started the Supervised Practice Experience Partnership program for interested applicants to become a registered nurse (RN) or a registered practical purse (RPN) in the province, Preocanin praised it.

This is a good step, but there is still a large shortage of nurses, she said.

We would love to have registered nurses that are internationally trained to come on board. However, the number is so small that somewhere around 300 nurses have actually registered for the program. It’s just a drop in the bucket for the 22,000 nurses that we’re already short, said Preocanin.

Graduates of a nursing program abroad and IENs who want to practice the profession are eligible, but they lack the language proficiency and evidence of practice required by the CNO.

Aside from this, Preocanin is concerned about the additional burden on RNs under the program.

What I can tell you is that it is a mixed blessing that the government says that these nurses will need supervision by an RN, right?. So they’re coming in, but we still have RNs in our hospitals and in our facilities that need to supervise these nurses. So they’re already overburdened. And now we’re supervising the new internationally educated nurses who aren’t licenced yet to practice. So it’s an additional burden on our workforce, and we really need to focus on keeping our experienced nurses to help support our internationally educated nurses coming in, she said.

To be able to practice as a nurse in Ontario, you must register with the CNO. Therefore, the Supervised Practice Experience Partnership program is a positive thing for IENs.

Pantig

Jeremy Pantig earned a master’s degree in nursing from the Angeles University Foundation. PHOTO:COURTESY: JEREMY PANTIG

Photo: Courtesy: Jeremy Pantig

According to Jeremy Pantig, a Filipino nurse and now Chair of the Integrated Filipino Canadian Nurses Association Education Program, this is a good sign.

It’s a welcome move. Somehow, they realized that the process needed to be expedited. They need to support these people, to expedite the process because there’s a real shortage, Pantig said.

The application process for all IENs who wish to practice the profession begins with an evaluation conducted by the National Nursing Assessment Service, which reviews their education credentials and compares them with those of RPNs and RNs in Canada.

In March last year, the CNO Council decided to include the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) as a means of evaluation for an IEN to register as an RN in Ontario and comply with the education requirement.

The NCLEX-RN must be passed to become a professional nurse in the United States and Canada.

However, according to the CNO Council’s decision, IENs who passed and were enrolled as of the cut-off date of April 2013 are eligible for the program.

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On the CNO’s website, it states that they have reviewed the NCLEX-RN test plans since 1982. PHOTO: SCREENSHOT FROM CNO WEBSITE.

So, we are caught in limbo. We can’t move forward. We also can’t move backward. In my case, I graduated in 2009, and I passed the NCLEX [in 2011]. There are nurses who claim to have graduated in 2005, but if they take the NCLEX today and meet the Canadian education requirement, they’ll be able to comply. So, they can practice if they can meet that requirement. Why can’t we just take that path?

Pantig doesn’t feel that it’s fair.

If an IEN’s results aren’t comparable, they can take additional nursing courses in Canada or complete the rigorous Internationally Educated Nurses Competency Assessment Program, along with the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE).

In addition to working as a nurse, nursing educator, clinical instructor and faculty researcher in various nursing schools and hospitals, Jeremy Pantig was a national lecturer regarding the nursing licensure examination.
PHOTO:COURTESY: JEREMY PANTIG

In addition to working as a nurse, nursing educator, clinical instructor and faculty researcher in various nursing schools and hospitals, Jeremy Pantig was a national lecturer regarding the nursing licensure examination. PHOTO:COURTESY: JEREMY PANTIG

Photo: Courtesy: Jeremy Pantig

If an IEN’s results aren’t comparable, they can take additional nursing courses in Canada or complete the rigorous Internationally Educated Nurses Competency Assessment Program, along with the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE).

Scheduling the OSCE is a very tedious process. The number of nurses they admit is limited, so that’s our problem, said Pantig.

Pantig admits that the registration process is both long and expensive, and there is no concrete plan for those who pass the NCLEX like him.

It’s frustrating because every time that there’s news about the need for nurses from the Ministry of Health in Ottawa or Ontario, they say they’re looking for nurses in the Philippines and the United States to bring to Canada. That hurts because we’re right here. We’re from the Philippines. We’re also registered nurses in the United States, so what else do we need to do? What we want is to help with this pandemic. It’s frustrating that we’ve been sidelined from helping. At the end of the day, it isn’t just about money. It’s about returning to our profession. We can practice and we can help the public. That’s all, Pantig said.

The ONA refused to comment on the CNO’s standards in the registration process for IENs.

The 22,000 nurses short in the province is really about government, past and present governments who have not addressed this long-standing issue. Twenty years at least, we’ve been asking, and I have been asking for the province to take action and no government has ever addressed it effectively. So, I can’t really comment on the College of Nurses of Ontario’s position who are on this, except to say that on this position is still engaging the government to allow for more nurses to graduate from school, to help with the internationally educated nurses gain their immigration status and their licencing status. That’s more of a focus for us to be able to add to the workforce, Preocanin said.

Preocanin encourages IENs like Pantig not to give up.

We welcome them with open arms to come into the system to please keep trying and to not give up coming forward and getting their registration to practice their profession that they have brought from other countries. It is such a great privilege for all of us to have our internationally educated nurses working alongside us, said Preocanin.

Rodge Cultura

Posted: January 19, 2022

This report by our reporter Rodge Cultura has been translated from Tagalog to English.

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