St. Lawrence College is offering Internationally Educated Nurses (IEN) a more accessible way to upgrade their credentials and enter the healthcare workforce.
The IEN Competency Upgrade Pathway is allowing a number of Ontario colleges including SLC to provide the flexible means for nearly-qualified nurses to meet the bar set in the province’s healthcare system.
The courses are funded through the Ontario government’s Nursing Program Transformation in Ontario’s Colleges initiative.
Dr. Barb LeBlanc, Dean of Health and Wellness at St. Lawrence, says the urgency of this move is due to the widespread shortage of nurses but that the problem it is addressing isn’t a new one.
International nurses getting into the Ontario workforce have in the past seen the process take 3-4 years, and LeBlanc says the state of crisis the system is in has forced that problem to be addressed.
“We have internationally educated nurses that come here that want to practice here but are held up in that process,” Leblanc said.
“Because of the shortage there’s been a lot of pressure from many angles to expedite that process more.”
While international student tuition can often be significantly more expensive than domestic, that won’t be an issue for IENs.
Students are credited up to $500 per course for up to $4000 or 8 courses, as well as up to $2000 for course related supplies like textbooks.
Dr. Leblanc says for most nurses in this situation, somewhere between 4 to 6 courses are needed.
“In essence they can take the program for free,” Leblanc said.
Prior to the creation of the Pathway, all courses were completed in person and only delivered by a limited number of schools.
Dr. Leblanc says the flexibility will really help students whose schooling could get in the way of the need to work.
“It’s not structured time wise, it’s not structured location wise,” Leblanc said.
“It makes it much easier for them to still maintain work life and look after their families.”
In a release from SLC, President and CEO Glenn Vollebregt says this will be part of the long-term solution within healthcare.
“We’re grateful to be able to offer credential upgrading at a time of critical need in our communities for more nursing professionals to be working in our hospitals,” said Vollebregt.
“SLC is highly regarded for educating healthcare professionals, and this is one more way we can be a part of the long-term solution to filling a workforce need.”
The Ontario Nurses Association has said Ontario falls well below the rest of Canada in total RNs in the province, saying in November 24,000 would need to be hired to meet the national average per capita.
The system has been described as being in crisis by some within in it, and Dr. Leblanc says this initiative could take a big step towards alleviating that.
“I think it has the potential to really impact the shortage,” Leblanc said.
“Some of the stats coming out of CNO is that there is several thousand internationally educated nurses waiting for their licenses… if their stats are correct then that has the potential to greatly impact what we’re seeing right now.”