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Province signs MOU with Philippines in effort to attract more nurses

In an effort to attract more medical workers in Alberta like nurses and doctors, the Government of Alberta and the Republic of the Philippines signed an agreement on Oct. 6 in an effort to streamline the process of Filipino nurses trying to get accreditation in the province. The College of Surgeons and Physicians of Alberta is also accelerating its process of evaluating international medical graduates in the province.
File photo.

LAKELAND – The Government of Alberta and the Republic of the Philippines signed an agreement on Oct. 6 in an effort to streamline the process of Filipino nurses trying to get accreditation in the province.

Prior to his departure from the position, former Premier Jason Kenney signed the agreement with Consul General of the Philippines Zaldy Patron. Kenney said the province requires more healthcare workers, such as nurses and doctors, as the population grows, in addition to addressing the challenges brought on by healthcare workers who are choosing to retire.

“I'm pleased to announce that we've been working with the Government of the Philippines over the past several months to establish an agreement to make Alberta a preferred destination for inbound Filipino nurses who are in demand all around the world,” said Kenney, during the Oct. 6 press conference announcing the MOU agreement.

According to Kenney, immigrants across the world face challenges of having their credentials recognized in Alberta, so the province will be “open to similar agreements with other countries that have been an important source of talented newcomers to our country.” 
The MOU agreement on the recruitment of nurses between the governments of Alberta and the Philippines, according to Kenney, includes “access to navigating the complex regulatory system, streamlined assessments and licensing programs, greater access to bridging seats and clinic placements.”

Under the Philippine-Alberta MOU, international Filipino nursing graduates will also have a bursary program to assist with costs associated with processing their credentials in the province. A potential establishment of Alberta accredited nursing programs in the Philippines will also be explored as part of the MOU.

Kenney also said additional funding will go toward post-secondary institutions offering bridging programs for internationally educated nurses, which include adding supplementary courses and training modules.

Barriers for internationally educated nurses

Minister of Advanced Education Demetrios Nicolaides said internationally educated nurses face significant barriers to come live and work in the province. It is a “long and complicated” process of evaluation by the College of Registered Nurses of Alberta, and the College of Licensed Practical Nursing – the regulatory bodies of the nursing profession in Alberta.

In addition to the evaluation process, Nicolaides said internationally educated nurses must also apply for bridging programs offered by post-secondary institutions for additional training. After completing their bridging program, “they will then undergo further assessment and licensing to finally be able to practice at their skill level.”

Nicolaides said internationally educated nurses also face “financial barriers” throughout the process. In addition, he also said many internationally educated nurses must wait for years to be admitted into bridging programs in many post-secondary institutions due to limited seats.

So, to reduce barriers for internationally graduated nurses and ensure the quality of health care is maintained, Nicolaides said an initial $3.5 million from Advanced Education will go toward the expansion of nurse bridging programs in post-secondary institutions.

Accelerating registration of internationally trained physicians

During the press conference, Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping said the Government of Alberta is working with licensing bodies of the nursing profession as well as the College of Physicians of Surgeons (CPSA) to speed up the assessment process for international medical graduates (IMGs).

According to an Oct. 4 CPSA news release, the CPSA will implement a five-year pilot project to accelerate the registration of internationally trained physicians in Alberta. The pilot project will implement an additional path to registration for IMGs trained in certain jurisdictions.

The goal of the project is to evaluate if some IMGs can begin practicing independently in their communities faster while maintaining patient safety, according to the CPSA. Dr. Scott McLeod, CPSA Registrar and CEO, stated in the news release that the current assessment process by the CPSA for IMGs is already the fastest and “produces the highest number of assessments in the country.”

But “we felt it was important to work with the Minister of Health and other partners to consider new ways” to accelerate the CPSA assessment process, as well as to make it faster for IMGs to safely get into their communities.

Before IMGs can begin their assessment with the CPSA, they are required to meet eligibility criteria and secure sponsorship with a hospital through the Alberta Health Services (AHS).

After being deemed eligible and securing sponsorship with the AHS, IMGs move on to CPSA’s Practice Readiness Assessment (PRA-AB), which is the final step to independent practice in the province for physicians without full Canadian credentials.

The PRA-AB has two parts, with the first part involving a three-month Preliminary Clinical Assessment (PCA), and the second part involving a three-month Supervised Practice Assessment (SPA).

For the PCA, IMGs need to work under the direct supervision of a CPSA-approved assessor. After completing the PCA, IMGs move on to the SPA where they need to practice independently while being observed by a CPSA-approved assessor. During the SPA, IMGs can also charge AHS for bills related to their practice.

The CPSA’s pilot project will waive the PCA for IMGs that has a comparable training to Canadian universities identified by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, and the College of Family Physicians Canada. This means IMGs who trained on non-Canadian universities that are identified to be on par with Canadian universities by national physician bodies will be exempt from the PCA. 

Clinical review exams will also be waived for IMGs eligible for the pilot program. 

“To evaluate and ensure patients are receiving safe, high-quality care, safeguards, such as enhanced assessments and practice reviews will take place once the physician has successfully completed the Supervised Practice Assessment,” according to the CPSA on the news release.

*A previous version of this story incorrectly misspelled Dr. Scott McLeod's name. This story was updated on Oct. 21, 2022, to reflect the changes from "Scott McLeon" to its correct spelling, "Scott McLeod."

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