BC to Bring More Internationally Trained Nurses to Work in the Province

Nurses 1

To meet the increasing demand for nurses in British Columbia, the Province is making it easier for eligible internationally educated nurses (IENs) to enter the province's health system so they can support British Columbians' health-care needs sooner.

Together with the British Columbia College of Nurses and Midwives (BCCNM), the Nursing Community Assessment Service (NCAS) and Health Match BC (HMBC), the Province is supporting IENs who want to work in B.C. by:

* consolidating the provincially based assessment processes for IEN candidates;

* offering approximately $9 million in bursaries to help with assessment fees, which is expected to benefit approximately 1,500 IENs in the first year; and

* creating new nurse navigator positions to help IENs navigate the assessment and licensing process.

HMBC is also launching a refreshed marketing campaign and targeted website to promote B.C. as a desirable destination for IENs.

"Our government is committed to addressing the province's demand for nurses. That's why we're launching this comprehensive suite of supports for internationally educated nurses to help them put their skills to use here in B.C.," said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. "We are very pleased to be supporting BCCNM in developing the triple-track assessment process and to work with HMBC to provide financial and logistical support for internationally educated nurses. Removing some financial barriers and streamlining the assessment process will facilitate pathways to employment in the province and ensure British Columbians have access to the health care they deserve with even more nurses and health-care assistants."

Currently, registering as a health care assistant or nurse in B.C. as an internationally educated nurses is a complicated, costly and lengthy process. It requires multiple assessments and document submissions to numerous organizations. Internationally educated nursess wanting to be assessed along multiple tracks must go through separate assessment processes for different designations, which costs the applicants more money and time.

"Nurses embody the values of public service and resiliency, a fact demonstrated over the course of the dual public health emergencies - the COVID-19 pandemic and toxic drug crisis," said Mable Elmore, Parliamentary Secretary for Seniors' Services and Long-Term Care. "Internationally educated nurses entering B.C.'s health workforce are committed to their skills and vocation, and it inspires our government to do everything it can to support them and the patients they care for. And we know our partners share the same goal."

Through HMBC, the Province will support IENs with bursaries to offset the costs of assessment services, language testing, skill evaluation and educational upgrading. Bursaries available for IENs range from $1,500 and $16,000, depending on assessment or upgrading required. In addition, HMBC's new nurse navigators will assist IENs as they navigate the various testing and assessments required to practise in B.C., providing immigration and licensing support, relocation information and job placement and employment support.

The Province is providing more than $12 million to consolidate the assessment processes, provide bursaries for internationally educated nurses, launch the new marketing campaign and provide nurse navigator supports to new IENs and those who are currently on the assessment pathway.

This announcement builds on the Province's commitment to train and hire more health-care workers, including nurses. NCAS will launch its initial triple-track pilot in early May 2022, with BCCNM redesigning its applications to enable a single application and NCAS referral for multiple designations. BCCNM anticipates implementing a pilot IEN pathway to further streamline processes in the fall 2022.

IENs, who are in B.C. and are interested in learning more about the bursaries, are encouraged to register interest with HMBC online: https://www.healthmatchbc.org/nursingjobsbc

The new marketing campaign and website will launch in May 2022.

Quotes:

Cynthia Johansen, registrar and CEO, BC College of Nurses and Midwives -

"The pandemic has demanded a lot of the nurses we regulate, who have been called upon to deliver care under extraordinary circumstances. It has also underscored the need for more nurses in our health-care system. We are delighted to be partnering with the Ministry of Health and NCAS to remove barriers wherever possible and bring internationally educated nurses into the system safely and efficiently."

Rita Parikh, executive director, Nursing Community Assessment Service -

"We're excited by this game changer for internationally educated nurses. The triple-track means NCAS can assess an IEN for competencies in three nursing professions at once, which boosts their chance of joining the workforce quickly in the role to which they are best suited right now. We're grateful for the Ministry of Health's long-time support of our efforts to streamline the assessment process for IENs."

Aman Grewal, president, BC Nurses' Union -

"After years of advocating for improvements to help expedite the inclusion of internationally trained nurses, the BC Nurses' Union welcomes this promising step forward. We believe these trained professionals bring valuable experience, skills and knowledge to a health-care system that is in desperate need of nurses. BCNU is optimistic investments like this will be followed up with additional changes designed to expedite the opening of doors for those who are so eager to provide patient care in our province."

Michael McMillan, president and chief executive officer, Health Employers Association of BC -

"This investment is an exciting step in providing more support for IENS who want to work in B.C. Health Match BC is excited to be a partner with the ministry, BCCNM and NCAS to support this initiative. Work will include a new marketing campaign to promote B.C. and a new provincial website to provide information on available supports. Health Match BC will also provide recruitment navigation support and administer bursaries to help IENS overcome barriers and encourage them build their future in B.C."

Jennie Arceno, registered nurse and IEN -

"Finally, we are moving ahead, and I have envisioned and hoped for this to happen for my fellow IENs. This will surely motivate and help those who are in the process of obtaining their registration. During my time, it was very tedious and I was about to lose hope, but I kept looking at the words 'RN' and I know that I will obtain it, again. The struggles that I went through fuelled my passion in advocating for my fellow IENs, and knowing it's slowly happening is just surreal."

Quick Facts:

* Approximately 700 internationally educated nurses and return-to-practice health-care workers are referred to nursing community assessment service for assessment annually, with the majority being internationally educated nurses.

* Between 2017 and 2021, 48% of health-care assistant, 49% of licensed practical nurse, 77% of registered nurse and 48% of registered psychiatric nurse NCAS applicants completed the nursing community assessment service process.

* It takes internationally educated nurses approximately two to six years to become a registered nurse in B.C. The evaluation process ranges from five months for health-care assistants to approximately 10.5 months for registered nurses.

* Government is investing $96 million over three years to support training in health-sector human resources. This includes funding to expand nursing education seats in post-secondary institutions around the province this fiscal year. This will also include nurse refresher programs that help prepare internationally educated nurses for nursing careers in B.C.