The nurses we play on the bench

Nowadays we don’t have the luxury of letting professionals play on the bench. We cannot do without foreign workers who can help us address labor shortages, especially in the severely understaffed health sector.

Posted at 9:00 am

The consequences are everywhere.

Take the emergencies, where absenteeism will make the summer even more difficult than last year, Minister for Health and Social Affairs Christian Dubé warned this week.

Also take private residences for the elderly (RPA), where not a week goes by without a closure being announced. In early June, we also learned that the Sous les étoiles residence in the Laurentians would leave 24 elderly people on the floor with a month’s notice. A catastrophe for these vulnerable people who are uprooted from their living environment.

Since January 2021, it’s the carnage. More than 160 RPAs have been closed. Especially smaller, cheaper companies. Especially in regions where there are few alternatives.

The most important factor behind this black series? The lack of staff. Nonetheless, RPAs make efforts to find workers, for example by organizing recruitment missions abroad, where thousands of people raise their hands.

But working with us is a real obstacle course.

First, the immigration process is unacceptably slow. Foreign workers sometimes wait up to 18 months before ending up in the residence that hired them.

What are we waiting for to hit the gas pedal? That they change their plans and look elsewhere?

In addition, the RPAs point out that the foreign workers they hire as carers cannot always bring their families with them, unlike other workers such as nurses or cooks who belong to a different category.

Isn’t it time to better adapt these extremely chilling rules to our urgent labor needs?

Arriving in Quebec, the workers are not yet at the end of their problems. Many experienced nurses who have earned high school diplomas in their country, such as Tunisia, work as orderlies in RPAs in Quebec.

The phenomenon of overqualification of migrants in the health sector is well documented. According to Statistics Canada, barely a third (37%) of immigrants with a bachelor’s degree in nursing actually have a job in their profession, compared with three-quarters (78%) of Canadian graduates.

However, the Order of Nurses of Quebec, which receives almost 700 applications for recognition of diplomas per year, grants practically all applications … on condition that it undergoes refresher training on the school desks (in 34% of cases) or an internship with employers (64%), depending on the candidate’s knowledge and experience.

Except that the analysis of the file by the Order takes about three months after the completion of the file. And then the training in CEGEPs takes about eight months. Foreign workers cannot afford to give up their income for such a long period of time to complete a standardized course that does not necessarily meet their needs.

The work placement is generally shorter than CEGEP training, but RPAs do not necessarily have the resources to offer it at home. And in every case, their foreign recruits come with a temporary work permit that prohibits them from “attending an educational institution or completing a theoretical or professional course” or even engaging in “an occupation other than that stated.”

So many qualified nurses work as carers when they could do so much more. They easily have to wait three or four years to settle down and then go back to school.

However, this time that elapses is crucial for caregivers, as it is for all working professionals. If integration into working life is not successful after two to three years, the risks of obsolete skills and social and professional withdrawal increase.

So why not quickly offer a part-time refresher for foreign workers who need to earn a living?

It is imperative to expedite and facilitate the journey of immigrants arriving here without a compass. This requires better cooperation between the various actors, as recommended by the Conseil interprofessionnel du Québec as part of a project to modernize professional law.

The professional integration of graduates from outside Quebec accounts for 15% of all permits issued by the 46 orders, which requires many resources. The process must be as efficient as possible, as immigration is a key element in solving the labor shortage, especially in the health sector.

These people leave their families and their country to care for the most vulnerable in our country. And rebuild their lives here. The least we could do would be to facilitate their reception and professional integration. For her. And also for Quebec.

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