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Internationally trained nurses in Canada willing to work

TORONTO – The surge in COVID-19 infections caused by Omicron is worsening the nursing shortage in Canadian hospitals. But there are thousands of internationally trained nurses who say they can take the strain off the health care system if given the chance to work.

“We can help. For example, come on guys. We’re here. And we’ve been training and working for so many years. We just hope they can consider us,” Antonette Licuanan told CTV News.

Licuanan was a nurse in the Philippines for seven years before moving to Ontario, but she cannot work as a nurse until she has completed a long, complex and expensive certification process.

“Each country has different standards. But (at the same time)… I know for a fact how difficult it is for all healthcare teams around the world,” she said.

There is good news for some internationally trained nurses in Ontario. The province announced Tuesday that 1,200 of these nurses will be matched with hospitals and long-term care homes to deal with immediate staff shortages.

But some nurses, even after obtaining the appropriate certification, still cannot practice due to immigration processing delays.

Karla Ducusin is a registered nurse in Ontario and previously worked as a nurse in the Philippines for four years. But even though she has the right credentials, she is still waiting for immigration officials to process her application for permanent residence, which she submitted in October 2020.

“It’s very, very frustrating, honestly. I see the news, I read in articles that the nurses are exhausted. The nurses are tired. They are exhausted from overtime,” she told CTV News . “We are here. We can help you.”

Ducusin had worked hard to obtain his nursing degrees in Ontario, a process that drained all his savings. But pandemic-related delays in processing immigration continued to leave her in limbo.

“With the immigration documents, I don’t have it. I’m just left out. I feel like my life is on hold. I wait and I wait and nothing happens. very frustrating, ”she said.

The shortage of nurses was a problem before the pandemic. But the rise of the Omicron variant has resulted in a wave of infections among nurses, who are expected to self-isolate and be unable to work. On top of that, hospitalizations and intensive care admissions are increasing, putting further strain on the healthcare system.

“Things have the potential… to get even worse than they are now and we’re not already well positioned,” said Morgan Hoffarth, president of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario.

The association says there are about 15,000 internationally trained nurses in the province who are not practicing in their field, even though they could be.

“That’s a lot, and it would make a huge difference in helping our healthcare system,” Hoffarth said.

“In the next four to six weeks. We need help. We need organizations. We need to speed up registration and work permits for internationally trained nurses.

It’s a similar story on the West Coast. The BC Nurses’ Union also wants the certification process to be streamlined for internationally educated nurses.

“There are a ton of nurses in British Columbia who are internationally trained and it is costing them so much to overcome the hurdles and obstacles that come with getting licensed,” Danette told CTV News. Thomsen, Acting Union Vice-President. “It is an untapped resource.”

Even before getting all the proper certifications, Thomsen says nurses like Licuanan could be put to work now to perform non-critical tasks and take some of the load off other nurses.

“Our nurses say their patient loads are two to two and a half times heavier than normal. That it is impossible to provide safe patient care,” said Thomsen.