April 4, 2017 – canadianimmigrant
In the fall of 2015, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced it was funding a range of programs to help people in the immigration pipeline in a variety of ways. Pre-Arrival Supports and Services (PASS) for nurses falls into the occupation-specific category. Launched at the beginning of 2016, PASS is a project of CARE Centre for Internationally Educated Nurses (IENs), a bridge-training program funded by the Government of Ontario.
CARE Centre was created 15 years ago by a coalition of community groups concerned that many IENs were unsupported in their goals of registration and employment. Nurses are the largest employee group in healthcare and IENs are a vital human resource for a diverse Canadian patient population. Today, one in four nurses in the Greater Toronto Area is an IEN, and their contributions in cities and communities across the country are significant.
“PASS lets IENs begin the registration process in their home or source countries to jump-start their nursing careers in Canada,” says Meghan Wankel, PASS co-ordinator. “As of this March we’ve worked with 140 IENs, helping them settle in various provinces and develop local nursing networks. We’ve developed relationships with IENs from around the world that have made Canada their new home and whenever we can we’ve connected them to each other.”
Salima Mithani and Christina Lehman are two IENs who settled in Ottawa. Wankel met with them when attending a conference hosted by Planning for Canada and the nurses, from Pakistan and the United States respectively, hit it off immediately.
“I first came into contact with PASS after receiving my report from the National Nursing Assessment Service,” says Lehman. “PASS has truly been a lifeline! The resources, preceptorships and encouragement kept me going, especially when facing roadblocks. Shortly after I immigrated to Canada, Meghan introduced me to Salima. We instantly clicked and exchanged information; I am so happy that through PASS I made a new lifelong friend!”
“The PASS program was a virtual tour of the Canadian health care system that gave me a taste of diversity before even entering Canada,” says Mithani. “Meghan introduced me to Christina, and because of PASS, it didn’t seem like we were meeting for the first time. Christina soon became my first and best friend in Ottawa and now she’s like family to me. I am really grateful to PASS for the tremendous support during my initial journey, for being constantly present, and, of course, for giving me a wonderful friend!”
“Another trend in our PASS membership is couples who are both IENs who we can help together,” says Wankel. “There are a greater percentage of male nurses in other parts of the world than in North America, so it’s a bonus for Canada to integrate these IENs into the diversity of our nursing workforce and foster gender equality.”
Ronald Thakor and Unnati Christian met in nursing school in India, and decided to immigrate to Canada in 2012, soon after they married. With a cousin and a classmate already living in Ontario, the couple was excited to restart their nursing careers abroad. “PASS prepared us for what to expect and what steps to take before coming to Canada,” says Thakor. “In India, nurses don’t do much planning around patient care,” says Christian. “We do active duties, like monitoring patients, administering medications and handling client documentation. Here, nurses are actively involved with the health care team.”
“One of the most important things I learned through PASS was culturally competent communication. We weren’t aware of just how much diversity we’d encounter here,” says Thakor. “It’s great that PASS works so closely with CARE Centre; it was the transition support we needed.”
“One of my favourite aspects of working with our IENs is connecting our participants with each other through our Forum Board,” says Wankel. “I deliver webinars to IENs from literally all over the world who are all destined for Canada. PASS helps them initiate a nursing network before they arrive. We can also arrange mentorships with Canadian Nurses Association members in their destination provinces and by nursing specialization. PASS lays the groundwork for the swift growth of their nursing careers.”
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