Nurses receive support to join B.C.’s health system more quickly

Premier David Eby flanked by Harwinder Sandhu, Parliamentary Secretary for Senior's Services and Long-Term Care, and Health Minister Adrian Dix. Photo by SUKHWANT DHILLON / AM 600 Sher-E-Punjab Radio

THE Province announced on Monday that it is making it easier for internationally educated nurses to work in B.C.’s health-care system with new financial supports and a faster, more efficient assessment pathway.

Internationally educated nurses (IENs) will no longer be required to pay application and assessment fees upfront, which cost more than $3,700. These fees will be covered directly by the Province in order to remove financial barriers for internationally educated workers who want to work in B.C.

“Supporting nurses is key to our work to making health care accessible to all British Columbians. Still, the demand for nurses is outpacing the supply,” said Premier David Eby. “There are talented and skilled nurses with the right experience who want to practise in B.C. and support high-quality care, but they are kept on the sidelines by an expensive and complicated registration process. Whether a nurse was trained in or out of the province, we are ready to welcome those who are ready to care for British Columbians.”

The Province is also providing new financial support to nurses returning to practice after a period of absence. Nurses looking to return to practice will no longer be required to pay a $300 application fee, and more than $4,000 in financial support will be available to cover assessment and eligible travel costs for nurses taking assessments in order to re-enter the workforce.

Nurses returning to practice will also be eligible to access as much as $10,000 in bursaries for any additional education required for returning to practice.

“By removing the barriers for more nurses to join our health-care workforce, we are ensuring that people throughout the province have greater access to the health services they need, when they need them,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “Our government will continue to take action to recruit and train more health-care workers to meet the health-care needs of British Columbians. In creating more accessible careers for nurses in B.C., we are delivering on our commitment to build a sustainable health system for many years to come.”

In April 2022, government announced $12 million to provide bursaries for IENs, launch a new marketing campaign, provide navigational supports to new and incoming IENs through HealthMatch BC, and launch a consolidated assessment approach. This has enabled some IENs to join the health-care system more quickly in the role that most closely matches their education and experience.

Since then, 5,500 people have expressed interest in working in B.C., with 2,000 people actively working through the various stages of the registration and assessment process. More than 90% of nursing applications received in 2022 by the BC College of Nurses and Midwives (BCCNM) came following these changes.

“The Province is committed to making it easier and less costly for internationally educated nurses and return-to-practice nurses to become licensed to practise in British Columbia and join the health workforce,” said Harwinder Sandhu, Parliamentary Secretary for Senior’s Services and Long-Term Care.

“As a nurse educated outside of Canada, I have first-hand knowledge that it could take years for an IEN to be granted registration. I am glad to see the progress made by the BC College of Nurses and Midwives, and the Nursing Community Assessment Service to streamline the process for credential and competency assessments for IENs. The contribution of IENs to our health care is far reaching. They bring a wealth of experience, knowledge and dedication to their work. I am proud of our government’s commitment to welcoming more people to join the nursing profession so that our public health system can be well-supported in the long run.”

In September 2022, the Province also committed up to $1.3 million to set up a new pathway to make it more efficient for IENs to obtain licensure in B.C. The funding will support BCCNM and the Nursing Community Assessment Service in creating a new streamlined approach to assessment and registration, so that more IEN applications can be assessed by BCCNM each year. This is expected to reduce the waiting period for nurses looking to work in B.C., from three years to approximately four months to nine months.

This announcement is part of B.C.’s broader Health Human Resources Strategy, which was announced on September 29, 2022. The strategy supports patients by ensuring they get the health services they need and are cared for by a healthy workforce. It focuses on 70 key actions to retain, recruit and train health-care workers, while redesigning the health-care system to foster workplace satisfaction and innovation.

 

BACKGROUNDER
Recruiting more nurses in British Columbia

* Approximately 700 internationally educated nurses (IENs) and return-to-practice health-care workers are referred to nursing community assessment services for assessment annually, with most workers being IENs.

* The BC College of Nurses and Midwives (BCCNM), and the Nursing Community Assessment Service (NCAS) will launch the new pathway by the end of January 2023. Key changes include:

1. Introducing more options for completing a credential evaluation.
– Currently, evaluation can only be done through the National Nursing Assessment Service, which can take as long as two years.

– An IEN will have the option to have their credentials evaluated by a number of assessment agencies.

2. Reducing up-front out-of-pocket costs, as eligible IENs have the most significant upfront application costs that can cost more than $3,700 per applicant.

3. Applying an updated approach to assessing English-language proficiency.
– Updated language-testing benchmarks will be used.

– IENs can still support their English-language competency level through other forms of evidence, such as demonstrating experience working in an English-speaking health-care setting or where education was in English.

4. Streamlining the assessment process.
– NCAS will assess education, English-language proficiency and nursing competency before BCCNM assesses an application.

– Having the assessments completed at one time, by one organization, will simplify the process for applicants.

5. Continuing to provide pathways to multiple health-care roles in the nursing family (e.g. registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, health-care aide).

Information about other bursaries and supports is available at: www.nursingjobsbc.ca

– In addition, B.C. nurses who are looking to return to the workforce but need to take a competency assessment and remedial education will be reimbursed for relevant financial costs.

– The bursary will be available for the NCAS assessment; any travel required to take the test; and as much as $10,000 for remedial education, if required.

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