Every single international student, temporary resident and incoming permanent resident with any amount of healthcare education should be included in a database of prospective healthcare professionals to beef up Canada’s healthcare system, says World Education Services (WES).
“As Canada continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, the country must ensure that it has enough qualified health professionals to respond to its population’s needs,” notes the non-profit that provides credential evaluations for international students and immigrants.
“Capitalizing on the skills and experience of internationally-educated health professionals (IEHPs) demands equitable policies and programs, which in turn require timely, comprehensive, integrated data.”
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In a WES policy brief, Addressing the Underutilization of Internationally-Educated Health Professionals in Canada: What the Data Does and Doesn’t Tell Us, the organization’s manager of policy and advocacy, Caroline Ewen, director of strategy, policy and research, Joan Atlin, and associate director of policy and advocacy, Karl Flecker, point out the Canadian government simply doesn’t know how many internationally-trained healthcare professionals are currently in the country.
“Because of data limitations, we simply don’t know how many IEHPs are in the country, temporarily or permanently, how many successfully re-enter their careers, or how long it takes them to become licensed,” note the authors of that policy brief.
“Understanding the scope, scale, and nature of the IEHP human resource pool and the underutilization of IEHP skills across a range of health professions is essential to informing the planning and policy measures necessary to equitably rebuild Canada’s health workforce.”
Ottawa’s 2017 Labour Force Survey data does show immigrants are a vital part of Canada’s healthcare sector.
Although only 10 per cent of working adults in Canada work in health occupations, immigrants make up 25 per cent of the country’s healthcare and social services workforce.
Roughly nine per cent of registered nurses in Canada are immigrants as are 19 per cent of physicians and 33 per cent of nurse’s aides, orderlies, and patient service associates, Statistics Canada figures reveal.
But the full extent of the potential resource to Canada that under-employed immigrants with healthcare backgrounds represents is largely unknown.
WES Makes Six Recommendations To The Government In Its Policy Brief
In its policy brief, WES makes six recommendations to shed light on the situation.
- Improve the data collection by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) the on educational background and intended occupations for all classes of immigrants. This would include:
- Collecting the type and level of healthcare education or training, licensure status in other jurisdictions, and intended occupation of all IEHP migrants to Canada, including all immigration categories: temporary workers (especially caregivers), permanent residents (including secondary applicants through Express Entry), refugees/ claimants, and international students;
- Tracking IEHPs who transition from temporary work/study permit holder to permanent residency/citizenship status;
- Continuing IRCC’s collaboration with Statistics Canada to develop the Longitudinal Immigration Database (IMDB) and supporting enhanced data exchanges, for example, through the social data linkage environment;
- Implement Statistics Canada’s Disaggregated Data Action Plan announced in the 2021 federal budget;
- Improve and standardize reporting processes for occupational regulatory bodies;
- Require provincial occupational regulatory bodies to collect data on IEHPs seeking registration in healthcare professions;
- Standardize data reporting requirements for occupational regulatory bodies across health professions and among provinces to show:
- How many IEHPs have applied for professional registration in relation to the total applicant pool;
- The number of successful/unsuccessful IEHP applicants each year;
- Disaggregated demographics on successful/unsuccessful applicants;
- How long the application/assessment process takes, and;
- Link data on applications and registrations from occupational regulatory bodies to data on employment outcomes.
National Strategy To Recognize IEHPs Urged In September Last Year
In September last year, more than 50 organizations, including groups representing doctors, nurses, and immigrants, called on Ottawa to enact a similar measure, a national strategy to more effectively integrate internationally-trained healthcare professionals into Canada’s healthcare system.
“Canadians want a government that will prioritize the process to design and implement a national strategy that will effectively and equitably integrate the thousands of immigrants who are internationally educated health professionals into the healthcare system swiftly, while meeting or exceeding quality of care standards,” stated that open letter to the government.
“Canada’s healthcare system is facing a multifaceted crisis. Healthcare workers are burnt out and exhausted due to their pandemic response efforts … However, the skills and experience IEHPs bring to Canada are extremely underutilized. This has weakened our pandemic response capacity.”