Niagara Health program helping immigrants become registered nurses in Ontario

St. Catherine Standard

Brilee Sears St. Catherine Standard Thu., Feb. 9, 2023

Nurses from around the world — who now live in the Niagara Region — are being given the chance to work in their field through supervised practice experience partnerships.

The supervised practice experience partnership (SPEP) program began in 2022, with Niagara Health selected as one of the participating hospitals for the initiative.

“It was a really exciting opportunity where we could partner with people who've had such diverse and wonderful experiences internationally and help them learn a little bit more about our Canadian health-care system,” said Janice Feather, director, professional practice and education at Niagara Health, and the administrator of the SPEP program.

Those who participate in the program are required to complete a minimum of 140 hours of supervised practice and demonstrate that they can meet a series of standards during their time under supervision which is used as their evidence of practice when they apply to become a registered nurse.

“That was really quite important for them to be able to get their evidence of practice, to be able to get to be registered with the College of Nurses Ontario and then join our Niagara health workforce to provide our community with better care,” explained Feather.

Sanoj Manuel participated in the SPEP program in early 2022, as a way to become a registered nurse without having to spend thousands of dollars to travel back home to India and complete his hours.

“The rule was to go back home and make 400 hours. So it was time spent on 400 hours, and more money. This is literally the same. It was really helpful for people like us,” Manuel said, encouraging others with nursing experience who have immigrated to the Ontario to participate in the program.

In the SPEP program Manuel only spent 200 hours on his learning before becoming a registered nurse and deciding to continue working with Niagara Health.

“After I got my licence, back home I had experience in emergency, so I asked if they would transfer me back to emergency and right now I am working in the St. Catharines emergency department,” explained Manuel.

Feathers says being able to place people in departments that they’ve previously worked in has been a large benefit to everyone who works at Niagara Health.

“You get to learn what health care looks like internationally and what are those best practices in. How we can care for patients is different and better here in Ontario. So it really has been kind of that mutual beneficial learning,” she said.

Jispy Joseph also participated in the SPEP program, She says that being able to work alongside mentors gave her the confidence she needed in the role she now holds at the St. Catharines hospital.

“My mentor, he was very wonderful. He showed me every single thing. They gave me a booklet and he was going through all the procedures that were included in the booklet, and he was trying to cover all the things that I needed when I entered into my job,” she explained.

This attention to detail was key for Joseph, who says she had a lot to learn when she started the SPEP program.

“I worked as a registered nurse in India. Everything is totally different, because India is a developing country so it was totally different,” she said.

So far, Niagara Health has been able to retain on staff 88 per cent of participants who have gone through the SPEP program and finalized their accreditation.

Feather and previous program participants say they hope that as Niagara Health is able to open up more spots for candidates to participate, the program will continue to grow.

“I’m very grateful to Niagara Health to give me a chance to fulfil my dream in Canada,” added Joseph.