Here's why Sask. may be in a tough spot to recruit Filipino nurses

A nurse holds a tablet in this stock image from Shutterstock.

Filipino nurses face hurdles to come work in Canada compared to other countries, according to two Philippines-based recruiting companies.

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Health announced this month that the Saskatchewan Health Authority hopes to recruit at least 150 and as many as 300 international health care workers, with a focus on workers from the Philippines.

The recruitment will focus on hard-to-recruit staff including registered nurses and licensed practical nurses, medical laboratory technologists and continuing care assistants.

Joel Ong, president of Southeast Asian Placement Center, said in an email to CTV News that they don't recruit to the Canadian market. They have direct contracts with hospital employers in the United States and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

"The reason why Canada was not on our radar is that Filipino RNs have to take additional nursing courses in Canada which is costly and time-consuming before they are qualified to work as an RN in Canada," Ong said.

All Filipino RNs complete a four-year nursing degree, he said.

"From my knowledge, Canada and Australia have the same disadvantage of not fully recognizing Philippine nursing education."

Ong said that in the U. S., a Filipino-born and educated nurse only needs to take the U.S. National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX) which they can do in the Philippines.

They are then petitioned by an American employer under a visa wherein they can bring their dependents.

"Filipino-born and educated nurses are offered the same pay as a U.S.-born and educated nurse which makes it attractive for them to migrate to the U.S. as an RN," he said.

That process takes about eight to 12 months for someone who has passed the NCLEX - and is even faster for nurses going to the UAE or Saudi Arabia and who have passed those licensure exams.

Ong said the Philippines have government-to-government programs to recruit RNs with the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan, where the pay is not as high as the U.S., but since the recruitment program is in place, it is attractive for Filipino RNs to work there.

Elymar Javar, operations manager for Medical Staffing Resources, also said the process is harder for Filipino nurses coming to Canada.

For example, in the United Kingdom, the candidate just needs to pass an English test and have a registration PIN with the Nursing and Midwifery Council and have at least one year of hospital experience, he said.

The firm recruits and deploys nurses to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Ireland, Germany and have done deployments to the United States. He said they are "looking forward" to getting clients for deployment to Canada.

College of Registered Nurses of Saskatchewan spokesperson Tonya Blakley said in an email that nurses coming to Saskatchewan must prove they meet the standards to practice Registered Nursing.

National Nursing Assessment Service reports demonstrate that most of the applicants have an education that is somewhat comparable or not comparable, so most require some bridging education, she said.

The college refers applicants who are “somewhat or not comparable” to Saskatchewan Polytechnic to determine what bridging education is required. Upon successful completion of bridging education, the applicant is offered eligibility to write the NCLEX or offered initial RN licensure if they have already passed the NCLEX.

If no bridging education is required, the applicant is offered eligibility to write the NCLEX or offered initial RN licensure if they have already written and passed the NCLEX. When they pass the NCLEX, they can apply for initial licensure, she said.

In an emailed statement, Ministry of Health spokesperson Jennifer Graham said in a the Philippines is a major source country for health workers, training more than it needs domestically, and that several Saskatchewan regional health authorities successfully recruited about 300 nurses from the Philippines in 2007 and 2008.

“The Saskatchewan Ministry of Immigration and Career Training (ICT) is leading a virtual recruitment initiative from the Philippines in early 2022 to support recruitment of critical and hard to fill positions in health care and other sectors,” the statement said.

“The ministries of ICT and Health will assist in linking nurses who are interested in working in Saskatchewan to the application process required to obtain licensure and employers offering opportunities of employment.

“For candidates who do not meet licensure requirements, Sask Polytechnic offers the Registered Nursing Bridging Program for Internationally Educated Nurses certificate. Internationally trained nurses who require further education and training to meet licensing requirements may enroll in the program."