Practical Nurses Respond to Call to Work in Canada


Natalee Donaldson, a trained practical nurse, has ambitions of becoming a registered midwife.
Sitting hopefully in the recruiting hall at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security’s North Street office on October 19 with a number of her colleagues, who had reacted quickly to the call for practical nurses to take up jobs in Canada, she waited for her turn to be interviewed.
A turn that she told JIS News would give her a chance “to better myself and to make me a better person in life”, if chosen, as with the job, comes the opportunity for professional advancement.
Having completed an 18-month practical nurse training course in 2006, she told JIS news that she has been working in the health system since January 2007, and had heard about the recruitment by word-of mouth just the day before.
“I got the resume done and emailed it to the school I attended, and they emailed it to the Ministry,” she informed.
Her quick action landed her in the interview room at 10:00 a.m., armed with her academic certificates and passport, and ready to embrace a future, which could see her achieving her goal of becoming a registered midwife
The move to recruit Jamaican practical nurses for Canada is the initiative of the Economic Development Commission (EDC) of Western Canada in partnership with the Labour Ministry, through its Canadian Overseas Employment Programme. The initiative will see thousands of skilled workers from the island’s construction and health sectors filling jobs in that region over the next couple of years.
An aging population in the region is fueling these opportunities, said Robert Fine, Executive Director of the EDC for Central Okanagan. He said that although British Columbia was the fastest growing province in Canada, the aging population of Kelowna has slowed economic growth.
“The primary reason our economic growth is slowing is we have no labour force, so we’ve got this incredible demand for construction, health care services, tourism, and we are having tremendous difficulty trying to recruit workers,” he informed.
Tom Fulton, Chief Nursing Officer from the Interior Health Authority, said that there is a demand for a large group of skilled health care workers in Kelowna and British Columbia where an aging population resides, giving rise to the demand for licenced practical nurses to care for their needs. The Jamaican nurses will work alongside their Canadian counterparts to provide support services for seniors in residential homes.
“We have a shortage of licenced practical nurses so we’re trying to see if this is an effective way to meet our needs and create a good partnership with the Jamaican government to help meet their needs,” Mr. Fulton said.
He said that the recruitment would be operated as a pilot project initially, “because we have to see if it’s effective for both parties and we’re initially going to try to get around 10 to 12 licenced practical nurses on this trip.”
The first batch of practical nurse will have to make a good impression, as the success of this pilot will determine future selections.
Apart from the perks of an attractive salary that is paid in Canadian dollars and health care benefits, the job will fill the quest that most nurses have for life-long learning.
According to Human Resource Officer for the Interior Health Authority, Katherine Craig, there are many training facilities in Kelowna and Okanagan where the nurses can train to become registered nurses or change careers if they wish. “There is room for every person to find what they want,” she stated.
As for the criteria for selection, Miss Craig told JIS News that “what we are looking for is the best fit.
Because they will be taking care of our senior population, we are looking for somebody with experience there and for licenced practical nursing qualification, because when they come to Canada, they will have to write the provincial exams, and so we want to hire people who have those skills so they will be successful in the writing of the exam,” she informed.
In the meantime, the Practical Nurses Association has welcomed the move to recruit from among the profession. “We feel very great. We feel this is a very great opportunity for us,” said Second Vice President of the Association, Roslyn Stewart.
She told JIS News that the Ministry had asked the association to send 25 of its trained nurses to the recruitment exercise, but she has spoken to Professor Michael Patterson of Okanagan College, a Jamaican who has played a principal role in the initiative, and “he said he needs at least 2,000 nurses in the next 24 months”.
Noting the demand for practical nurses overseas, Miss Stewart said she was pleased at the confidence placed in the competence of Jamaica’s nurses, who serve as ward assistants, providing patient care and other hands-on ward maintenance duties in a number of private and public hospitals, and in private homes.
She noted that the opportunity provided by Canada would give practical nurses a gateway to professional development, and even a chance to obtain licensing, which despite advocacy on the part of the Association, continues to present a challenge for practical nurses.
Minister of Labour and Social Security, Pearnel Charles has said that certification of practical nurses is an issue that will be addressed by the government.
Other opportunity for practical nurses to get certification may come through a partnership between the HEART/Trust NTA and the Okanagan College, which facilitates the transfer of students between the two countries.
Professor Steve Koehle, Vice President for International Education at Okanagan College said that the college received the first batch of 12 students in September and he is hopeful of getting more Jamaicans interested in these study opportunities, which also include business studies, electrical engineering and computer information systems.
The Ministry has invited unemployed practical nurses, who did not make it to the job fair, to submit their applications to the Ministry.

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