Internationally-trained health care professionals who are newcomers to Canada may face difficulty qualifying to work in this country. However, there are numerous bridging, language, training, and employment programs to help them transition to working in the same, or related, fields as they settle in.
Occupations to consider
International Medical Graduates (IMGs)
In order to qualify to work in Canada, IMGs (i.e. medical doctors) must:
- have a medical degree recognized by the World Health Organization;
- have obtained certification from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario; and
- be Canadian citizens or permanent residents.
Even if a newcomer is able to satisfy English proficiency requirements, finding a residency position can be an enormous challenge, as described in this news report: Only half of international medical grads in Canada work as doctors: study (CTV; Jun 26/14). The website of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada outlines Assessment routes for international medical graduates.
For IMGs who would like to consider alternate career paths in Canada, the settlement.org website suggests these options:
- Health Educator;
- Health Policy Analyst;
- Medical Laboratory Technician;
- Personal Support Worker; and
- Public Health Inspector.
Internationally Educated Nurses (IENs)
The requirements for IENs are similar to those for IMGs. According to the Careers in Nursing website, nurses wishing to work in Ontario must:
- have a recognized nursing degree;
- become recertified to work in Canada by passing the College of Nurses of Ontario registration exam and the RN Jurisprudence Exam; and
- be Canadian citizens or have permanent resident status.
If an IEN wishes to pursue an alternate career path in Canada, the settlement.org website suggests:
- Blood Donor Clinic Assistant;
- Early Childhood Educator Assistant;
- Health Educator;
- Nurse Aide; and
- Personal Support Worker (home care worker or personal care assistant.)
For information on becoming a physician assistant, see the website of Canadianpa.ca.
Internationally Trained Dentists (ITDs)
ITDs must have a dentistry degree and must be certified by the National Dental Examining Board of Canada (NDEB). As outlined on the NDEB website, there are two ways to become certified: the completion of a full-time, two-year program, or the completion of the “NDEB Equivalency Process.”
Alternate careers for ITDs, as listed on the settlement.org website include:
- Dental Assistant;
- Dental Laboratory Bench Worker;
- Dental Receptionist; and
- Technical Sales Specialist.
Mental health field (qualified IMGs and IENs)
If an IMG or IEN has “a significant educational component related to mental health (minimum 100 hours),” occupations within the mental health field may be options. Bridging programs, such as the “Bridge to Registration and Employment in Mental Health” can assist qualified newcomers to find placements in the fields of:
- Clinical counseling;
- Case management;
- Individual & group therapy; and
- Group facilitation.
Additional employment options for internationally-trained health care professionals include:
- Social services for geriatrics;
- Health informatics (applying healthcare data to improve patient outcomes);
- Dental hygiene;
- Sleep technology;
- Personal Support Worker;
- Medical laboratory technology;
- Medical radiation technology;
- Pharmaceutical or medical supply sales; and
- Clinical administration.
Types of employers
The health-care sector is diverse, with a wide range of potential employers, including:
- Home care service providers;
- Long-term care facilities;
- Doctors’ offices;
- Dentists’ offices;
- Medical laboratories;
- Educational facilities;
- Academic and research institutions and researchers (including grant-supported work);
- Software developers;
- Pharmaceutical companies; and
- Private individuals.
Programs in health care offered for internationally-trained newcomers
There are many different programs available to help internationally-trained newcomers find meaningful employment. Some of these programs focus on language skills, including English comprehension, occupation-specific terminology, and communication skills. Other programs focus on seeking employment. For example, bridging programs help candidates build on their existing education in order to qualify for alternate career paths. General employment programs help newcomers enhance their job-seeking skills, such as how to research job opportunities and create a resume.
English as a Second Language (ESL) programs
ESL programs help newcomers improve their English language comprehension. ESL programs specific for health-care professionals also address general medical terminology and may include modules about bedside communication with patients, how to describe medical instruments, and how to report/document patient issues.
Enhanced Language Training (ELT) programs
Job-specific terminology and workplace communication are the focus of ELT programs. Those that focus on health-care employment may also include modules about:
- Job search (researching job opportunities, resumes, interviews);
- Workplace culture;
- Health-care ethics;
- Trends in the health-care sector; and
- Unpaid work placements.
A flyer for the Health & Wellness ELT program provided by the Toronto District School Board indicates that the following internationally trained healthcare professionals are eligible to apply:
|Behavioural Health Coach||Holistic Nutritionist|
|Chiropractor||Life Enhancement Assistant|
|Community Health Worker||Life Enrichment Coordinator|
|Corporate Wellness Professional||Massage Therapist|
|Fitness Instructor||Mental Health Coach|
|Fitness, Recreation & Wellness Coach||Nutrition & Wellness Advisor|
|Health & Wellness Coach||Occupational Health Therapist|
|Health Transitions Coach||Physical Therapist|
|Health and Productivity Analyst||Public Health Educator|
|Health Improvement Manager||Recreational Therapist|
|Health Management Consultant||Vitamin & Health Food Consultant|
|Health Promoter||Weight Loss Consultant|
|Health Service Manager||Wellness & Exercise Instructor|
|Health, Safety & Wellness Coordinator||Wellness Coordinator|
|Healthy Lifestyle Specialist|
Occupation-Specific Language Training (OSLT) programs
OSLT programs are similar in many ways to ELT programs. However, while ELT programs tend to focus on job-specific terminology and include unpaid work placements, OSLT programs focus on workplace communication and culture and do not include work placements. Newcomers pursuing an OSLT program will learn about communicating and networking with other health-care professionals, collecting patient information, assisting others, and managing challenging situations.
Bridging programs help newcomers bridge the gap between their existing education and experience and their new career path in Canada. These programs typically focus on helping newcomers make connections with potential employers. Career counselling, job coaches, mentorships, networking opportunities, and referrals are included in bridging programs; some job-specific language and communication tips may also be offered.
Employment guidance and search assistance programs
The focus of these types of programs is to help newcomers identify and pursue new job opportunities. These programs are typically wide-ranging and may include modules that address industry-specific skill sets, workplace communication, job search support, mentorship and networking support, and post-hire support.
Some programs are specific to one career within the health-care sector. These programs are valuable to newcomers who are looking to transfer their existing education and skills to a newly defined career path. For example, a “Health Informatics Training Program” teaches the skills and terminology required in health informatics careers. It also provides networking opportunities and job-search support.
Programs available in the GTA
For more information about programs for internationally-trained newcomers, available in the GTA:
- Read our posts on bridging programs and loans that may be available to cover training costs.
- Visit the Programs and Events section of our website to find out about specific workshops and other training sessions. On that page, filter for “Health care” under “sector”.
Organizations offering health care bridging and employment programs in the GTA may include:
- ACCES Employment;
- CARE (Centre for Internally Educated Nurses);
- Carefirst Vocational Training Centre;
- Catholic Crosscultural Services;
- Centennial College;
- George Brown College;
- HMC Connections;
- Job Skills;
- JVS Toronto;
- Mennonite New Life Centre;
- Progress Career Planning Institute;
- Skills for Change;
- Toronto District School Board;
- Toronto Catholic District School Board;
- University of Toronto Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy; and
- Woodgreen Community Services.
The types of health care career programs targeting internationally-trained newcomers in the GTA, on either an ongoing or limited time basis, may include the following:
- Bridge to Healthcare Alternatives;
- Bridging Programs for Internationally Trained Individuals – Health Care;
- Bridge Training Program for Registration and Employment in Mental Health;
- Career Accelerator for Internationally Trained Health Professionals;
- ELT for Internationally Experienced Professionals – Healthcare;
- English for the Health-Care Workplace (for personal support workers);
- ESL for Health Care Professionals Program;
- Health & Wellness ELT;
- Health Informatics Training Program;
- Healthcare Connections;
- International Pharmacy Graduate (IPG) Program;
- International Pharmacy Technician Bridging Program;
- International Skills Applied for Geriatrics (ISAGE) Bridge Training Program;
- Nursing Communication Foundations (NCF) Course;
- Nursing Competency Assessment Supplement;
- Nursing Professional Development;
- OSLT Inter-professional for Health Care Teams; and
- Workplace Communication Skills for Health Care.
Licensing and certification organizations
Many healthcare professions are regulated in Ontario. To work in those careers, one must be licensed, with a certificate of registration from a respective regulatory college (e.g., The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario or the College of Nurses of Ontario). A comprehensive list of regulated health-care professions is available at the settlement.org website.
The Government of Ontario’s website also provides a comprehensive list of regulated professions along with a definition of each occupation and links to each profession’s regulatory body and pertinent provincial legislation.
The HealthForceOntario website is an excellent resource for internationally-trained health-care professionals. For each of the regulated professions, it provides links to the appropriate licensing body and other related professional associations, as well as a job bank specific to the health-care sector. The website also provides information about HeathForceOntario’s Access Centre for Internationally Educated Health Professionals (IEHPs), which has the goal of helping IEHPs achieve employment through training and licensure.
Some occupations within the health-care sector are not regulated, but certification or graduation from an approved program may be required. Examples include
There is currently no certification or regulation of personal support workers (PSWs) in Ontario.
Helping refugees immigrate to Canada as skilled workers
Some sponsors may be seeking to help a family member of already-settled, refugee newcomers also come to Canada. If such a family member has health care expertise, consider an alternate admission route. Even if this person might be officially certified as a refugee, immigrating as a highly skilled worker may be much quicker.
Consider, for example, the program of the American non-profit, Talent Beyond Boundaries (TBB). Although this is a U.S.-based organization, it is helping skilled refugees come to Canada, as well as to Australia, and soon perhaps, the UK (but, ironically, not yet the USA, given the current political environment.) The program’s objective is to have refugees admitted as skilled workers in the “economic immigration” category, rather than under the much smaller, “refugee” classification.
TBB views economic immigration as an additional solution to refugee resettlement. It believes that opening this economic pathway for eligible refugees would serve to increase the mobility options available to refugees worldwide. As of Fall, 2018, the program is just getting off the ground, with the first newcomers expected to arrive shortly. See Pilot Project Aims to Bring Refugees to Canada as Skilled Workers (Toronto Star Oct/18.) The main advantage of going this route is speed.
In the pilot stage, TBB and its government partners are trying to identify and overcome roadblocks that refugees would normally face in applying as economic immigrants, including, for example, expired passports and non-access to credentials.
The following stories, as reported by the media, which deal with the employment of newcomers in the health-care sector, may be of interest:
- A Somali refugee just became the director of the Seattle clinic where she was cared for as a child. (CNN, Oct. 26/19)
- Struggling to regain doctor’s status, newcomer saves man’s life on bus (CBC, Sep. 10/19)
- ‘I’m wasting my time’: Syrian doctor stuck working at The Home Depot (Halifax Chronicle Herald, Apr 28/19.)
- This won’t hurt: the Syrian medics helped back to work by UK startups (The Guardian (London), Jan 16/19.)
- Loan program makes dreams possible for newcomers aiming to upgrade their skills (Mississauga.com, Nov. 5/18.)
- Estevan’s three newest physicians are pleased to be here (Estevan Mercury, Oct 10/18)
- Canadian doctors educated abroad file a lawsuit, say limits on B.C. residency training are unfair (Vancouver Sun, Sept 27/18)
- A microloan helped Thai nurse reignite her career in Canada (The Star, Sept 24/18)
- Doctors Fleeing Syria for Germany Find Refuge, Hurdles and Delays (New York Times, Sep 8/18)
- The clock is ticking: International medical graduates struggle to find residency programs to practise in Nova Scotia (Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia, Jul. 19/18)
- James Town program helps immigrant medical workers find meaningful jobs in the GTA (The Star, June 14/18)
- The government of Canada helps internationally trained health care professionals get their credentials and experience recognized in Canada (Cision, May 4/18)
- Nova Scotia announces new immigration stream for doctors (CBC, Feb 22/18)
- Refugee doctor: ‘I hope to make the UK proud’ (BBC, Sep 6/17.)
- Child refugee grows up to become family doctor (UNHCR, Aug 28/17)
- Why refugee doctors become taxi drivers (CNN, Aug. 9/17.)
- Canada has a plan to stop qualified immigrant doctors from driving taxis (Canada’s National Observer, Apr 6/17.)
- Syrian doctors want to work in Canada, but face ‘many, many years’ of re-training (CBC, Dec 15/16.)
- Starting over: The journey from refugee to nurse practitioner (UHN, Jun 7/16.)
- Tibetan refugee brothers come to Canada with dreams of dentistry (Toronto Star, May 4/16.)
- Comparing Approaches to Integrating Refugee and Asylum-Seeking Healthcare Professionals in Canada and the UK (Longwoods.com, Oct/13.)