Quebec on track to recruit 1,000 international nurses

Launched in February 2022, the Quebec government’s project to recruit 1,000 nurses internationally is on track to become a reality.

If all goes according to schedule, the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MSSS) expects to launch phase four of its plan next fall.

According to recent data from the MSSS, candidates continued to arrive by the hundreds from Tunisia, Cameroon, Morocco, Algeria, Lebanon and Haiti, to name a few of the many French-speaking countries targeted by the operation.

But it will take a few more months to see the program’s impact on healthcare institutions.

Care professionals are recruited in their country of origin and hired by a health and social service center (CISSS/CIUSSS). Candidates must then take a French-language proficiency test and be evaluated by Quebec’s nurses’ order (OIIQ).

The OIIQ then issues a personalized training prescription for each candidate to accelerate their educational path.

Upon arriving in Quebec, the nurses familiarize themselves with the provincial health network through a program that lasts about a year. Finally, the new arrivals must then obtain their right to practice by passing the OIIQ nursing exam.

This means the first nurses recruited under the program won’t start working until the end of 2023.

According to MSSS data, phase one of the project brought in 205 people between September and November 2022. These professionals should be able to practice nursing in Quebec by the end of next fall.

The candidates selected during phase two will follow, with 240 people recruited between January and April 2023.

Then, another cohort of 202 recruits is expected for phase three between May and July of this year.

Finally, phase four has an estimated 377 nurses scheduled to begin training in the fall of 2023.

With such an influx of professionals ready to leave everything behind and work in Quebec, one might question if they’re aware of the current working conditions in Quebec healthcare institutions and the tensions between staff and management.

Two students in the Cégep de Valleyfield program told The Canadian Press the news had found its way to Cameroon, but said it didn’t scare them off.

“It didn’t worry me. I already have a family here,” said Emelda Tabot. “I have a cousin who works in healthcare as a nurse, so she was telling me how it was going. She told me, ‘If I can do it, you can do it too.'”

Tabot, who specializes in senior care, said that his cousin never tried to discourage him from coming; on the contrary.

“If anything, she encouraged me. She was even waiting for me at the airport,” added Tabot, who is working part-time as a beneficiary attendant in a long-term care home in addition to her studies.

For Etienne Ndzana, who worked in the operating room of a hospital in Yaoundé, the long hours are nothing new.

“We try to read what is happening elsewhere. We have information through social networks. We know that the hours are like that,” he said. “In Cameroon too, we have long hours. There are services where you can’t leave.”

Ndzana, who has about nine years of nursing experience, is optimistic. He described himself as someone passionate about care.

“I think when you love something, you don’t see time passing. I love medicine, and in caring for the human person, in giving them care, I don’t see time passing. Time doesn’t matter to you. It’s the disease or the pain you want to spare that matters much more.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on April 2, 2023.

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