Alberta introducing more internationally-educated health care workers to workforce

More internationally-educated health workers are being introduced across Alberta to help fill the gaps in the current health care system.

This comes after the federal government announced $86 million in funding for health professional accreditation and to address shortages.

This past year, Edmonton’s NorQuest College received similar funding from the provincial government for its internationally educated program.

Rudo Mapanga is one of the students in the program. She immigrated to Alberta two years ago to pursue a better life and education for her children.

Mapanga got a degree in nursing in her home country of Zimbabwe and a Ph.D. in South Africa. She then worked as a lecturer at a University in Kazakhstan for 6 years. But when she came to Canada, she was told not all her credentials were recognized.

“From my research, the outcome was that I was not likely going to get a job,” Mapanga said. “My plan was since I have a degree in nursing, the first thing I have to pursue once in Canada is to rejuvenate my nursing career. I never worked as a nurse despite having a degree in nursing.”

To start working again in Alberta she decided last year to get her Practical Nurse Diploma for Internationally Educated Students at NorQuest College.

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“The approach is more or less the same but then here in this case we are learning things which are more relevant to the Canadian context,” Mapanga said.

Ayshea Thornton is the academic program manager at NorQuest and says a lot of the students who come to the program already have the skills and education to be nurses in Canada.

Thornton says more than often those who deal with these challenges end up either leaving the health profession entirely or taking lower-paid work.

“A program like the internationally educated program gives them the orientation, the experience to Canadian healthcare. It credentials them as well so they get a diploma in practical nursing at the end. Then they’re able to get out into the healthcare workforce again,” said Thornton.

When NorQuest received similar funding from the provincial government, it was able to grow its program from 50 to 250 seats. This leads to more health care professionals being available across the province.

“Students in the program are really interested in working in rural nursing as well. So those gaps that we’re seeing in rural healthcare when it comes to the nursing workforce, our population of students are supported in being recruited and hired into those rural spaces,” Thornton said.

Thornton says the students are also very helpful with their peers. Bringing a background of health knowledge and experience from other countries. The students are also able to move into the profession more easily as they typically do not need much orientation.

“The real benefit of getting a credential and a diploma at the end of our program is that you’re able to ladder into other programs and post secondaries. If a student chooses to continue on and do a degree in nursing (and get their) registered nursing degree, they’re able to go to another post-secondary to do that,” added Thornton.

Mapanga graduates in August to become a nurse practitioner and recommends the program to anyone looking to continue their passion.

“We are learning in a safe environment where you can make mistakes, you are interacting, you are learning the culture within Canada. By the time you go and work you’re prepared,” she said.

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