Ontario is to find ways to recognize the educational credentials of internationally-trained nurses more quickly.

Premier Doug Ford has given the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) two weeks to make it happen.

“We’re in need of more nurses, as many as we can get,” Ford said this week. “We’re throwing everything and the kitchen sink at this.”

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At a news conference in Stratford, Ontario, Ford said he wants the professional governing body for nurses in that central Canadian province to find ways for a “much faster, rapid process” to register internationally-trained nurses so they can practice in Canada.

ER Wait Times Now Measured In Days In Some Ontario Hospitals

Ontario’s healthcare system is struggling under the strain of a massive shortage of nurses.

Emergency room and hospital wait times have in some cases reportedly stretched out from hours to days and roughly 25 hospitals shut down some of their operations over the last long weekend because of staff shortages.

Despite his recognition of the need for more nurses, the Ontario premier is defending his track record in adding healthcare workers since the start of the pandemic.

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In a report in The Globe and Mail, Ford is reported as stating Ontario has added 10,500 healthcare workers since the Covid-19 pandemic began in 2020, including 7,000 nurses and 2,400 personal support workers.

But that’s nowhere near enough to meet the need. 

On the Indeed job website, there were 8,247 job postings for nurses in Ontario alone on Friday and the government’s Jobbank career and job website is forecasting massive labour shortages for nurses for at least the next decade.

The premier’s push to speed up the accreditation process comes as the CNO is already setting records for the accreditation of internationally-trained nurses.

The organization set a new record for registering internationally-educated nurses this year, breaking its record for last year in just six months in 2022. As of June 21, the number of new internationally-educated nurses in Ontario had hit 3,967, a 132 per cent increase compared to the same time last year.

Record Number Of Internationally-Trained Nurses Getting Accredited In Ontario This Year

“This record marks the sixth consecutive year of increasing registrations for internationally-educated nurses,” said Carol Timmings, the CNO’s chief executive officer, in a statement earlier this year. 

“The registration of new nurses with the knowledge, skills and judgement to practice safely, whether trained in Canada or abroad, is core to our mandate and one way we protect the public.”

The CNO is looking to modernize its applicant assessment processes and diving deep into its processes to further improve its systems, said Timmings. 

“Applicants are wanting to answer the call, and we’re doing everything we can to improve these processes so they can safely enter practice and support Ontario’s healthcare system.”

Earlier this year, the organization struck up a partnership with Ontario Health and launched the Supervised Practice Experience Partnership (SPEP) program. 

Under that program, applicants can get their evidence of practice and language proficiency requirements and are matched with Ontario employers.

“SPEP was a very good experience,” said Manpreet Kaur, an internationally-trained nurse who went through that process.

“I was able to update my knowledge on procedures and learn how to work with the latest equipment. I am also thankful for the hospital I was matched with. I don’t think I could have managed to find a similar placement if I had to do it myself,” she said.

SPEP Helps Internationally-Trained Nurses Get Accredited Faster In Ontario

Since its launch, the program has matched a total of 1,147 applicants and been expanded to include nurses returning to practice. This program has supported the registration of 401 nurses.

In addition to launching the SPEP, the nurses’ association has also updated its language proficiency policy to offer better options for applicants to demonstrate language proficiency in English or in French.

“We are engaging partners across health care, government and academia, to address the challenges internationally-educated applicants are experiencing in meeting the educational requirement,” said Timmings. “Through these collaborations, we hope to implement a shared vision that will increase educational opportunities for applicants to meet this requirement.”

Despite the woes facing the healthcare system, Ford has indicated he has no intention of lifting a wage cap on nurses’ salaries that was put into place in 2019. Under Bill 124, nurses in Ontario saw their wage increases capped at one per cent per year for the length of their three-year contract.

“I appreciate the front-line health care workers, they work their backs off, day in and day out,” Ford reportedly told Global News this week.

“They’re exhausted. I get it. And you know, we couldn’t function without the great work that they do, the nurses, the (personal support workers), the doctors. Do we need more people? One hundred per cent we need more people. Are we willing to get more people? We’re doing everything in our power to get more people on board.”

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