By Denise Hansen
The stories are well known enough: physicians trained in India driving cabs in Canada’s urban centres; highly trained Filipino nurses underemployed as nannies and caregivers in rural regions; medical scientists, lab technicians and biochemistry experts from around the world all struggling to find employment in the Canadian health care industry in large part due to licensing issues.
For immigrants in the health care field, it can be a long, hard battle for immigrants to find meaningful employment in the health care industry — one of the most specialized and regulated industries in Canada. For this issue’s “What Employers Want” instalment, Canadian Immigrant talks with Rhonda Lewis, vice-president of human resources and patient relations at the Scarborough Hospital in Ontario to find out what Canadian hospitals — and the health care industry in general — look for when hiring immigrant professionals.
Approximately, what is the Canadian-born/immigrant makeup of the Scarborough Hospital’s workforce?
We believe that the makeup of the Scarborough Hospital’s workforce reflects the community we serve. Based on the latest census data, the visible minority population in Scarborough is 74 per cent of the total population. Scarborough also has the highest percentage of recent immigrants in Ontario.
Why is diversity important to the Scarborough Hospital?
The Scarborough Hospital’s vision is to be recognized as Canada’s leader in providing the best health care for a global community. The importance of diversity is inherent in this vision. Diversity produces better results at the hospital in terms of enhancing the patient experience, increasing staff morale, and strengthening transitions of care.
Improving access to care for patients is about the removal or alleviation of barriers, such as providing interpretation services, as well as the inclusion of culturally sensitive practices and food options. For staff, focusing on diversity fosters a culture of inclusivity and acceptance, and increases engagement.
A powerful example of the hospital’s commitment to diversity is its Global Community Resource Centre. This centre was established as a unique and dynamic “one-stop” interactive hub for patients, staff and the community to access reliable and multilingual health and community information in a variety of formats. The goal is to empower visitors to the centre with increased health literacy and better access to community services. The collaborative model for the centre includes partnerships with 14 community agencies.
How does the Scarborough Hospital approach the issue of foreign credentials and international experience when hiring?
All regulated health professionals employed at the hospital are required to have the requisite licensing in Ontario, and their practice is governed by the respective colleges. As long as professionals are licensed to practise in the province, the hospital places no distinction on the origins of their credentials.
Many employers prioritize Canadian experience. What can immigrant professionals do to substitute for their lack of Canadian experience?
It is important for immigrant professionals to ensure that they do their homework and are equipped with this ability prior to applying for employment opportunities. Sometimes this means ensuring they have sound knowledge of certain types of equipment, software or legislation, which might differ in Canada from other parts of the world. There are several continuing education options available to newcomers that are not unduly onerous, to be able to obtain the required specific knowledge or skills. Volunteer work is also a rewarding way in which newcomers can integrate themselves into the work environment.
What other skills or experience do you find immigrant candidates lack?
I think that one of the main challenges is language gaps, specifically the ability to understand and articulate in commonly used colloquial terms. Closely following this issue is that newcomers often lack confidence and this becomes evident in the manner in which they present themselves or showcase their talents.
What are some of the careers and skills currently in demand in the health care industry?
The health care industry offers a wide variety of clinical and non-clinical careers. Some of the key clinical jobs currently in demand are nurses, medical technologists, pharmacists and physiotherapists.
Key non-clinical jobs include information systems and financial analysts, health record technicians, human resources consultants, and quality and improvement facilitators.
Non-technical skills that are essential for all jobs are a high level of communication, teamwork, problem-solving and decision-making.
Once hired, what advice can you give newcomers in the health care industry on learning the ropes quickly?
I believe that, once hired, newcomers must make every effort to integrate themselves into the workforce by getting involved and staying engaged. It is important for them to embrace the diversity of their work environment and be willing to contribute their talents in an inclusive manner. They must also be proactive in becoming quickly acquainted with the essential elements of their job, whether it is equipment or policies and procedures, in order to ensure that they are as prepared as possible to produce optimal performance.