Observership opportunity would rapidly give IENs the training and experience they need
By Marilyn McGreer
November 6, 2023
As a retired CNA-certified (gerontology) licensed practical nurse educator, with extensive experience working in the long-term care (LTC) setting, I can appreciate first-hand the value of integrating internationally educated nurses (IENs) into LTC settings.
I am currently the owner and president of the Vocational Pathways Association of Edmonton (VPAE), a not-for-profit association aimed at assisting IENs to remove barriers in their path to becoming licensed and registered for employment in our health-care system. For the past five years, I have provided one-on-one coaching (virtual and in person) to nurses to help them with their English in classroom and health-care settings. This coaching includes working through health-care scenarios and role-playing situations that were created by VPAE and focus on delivering care in English, particularly LTC settings.
From my experience, there is limited support for IENs. I therefore envision the creation of a mentorship program that will provide a much-needed influx of nursing staff into the LTC setting and a supportive environment to provide mentorship to IENs. This mentorship program could be called “long-term care observership for IENs.” The program would have two major components: (1) job shadowing opportunities for the IEN, where they would be partnered with an experienced bedside nurse and (2) a self-assessment process, where they would reflect on what they observed and evaluate their own readiness for employment in LTC.
This nurse mentorship program would have two major objectives. First, it would encourage and inspire direct care nurses to be available in sharing their knowledge and expertise in LTC nursing. Second, the program would enable IENs to gain a professional development opportunity and to see LTC nursing as a career choice.
In my role as a nurse educator in post-secondary education at NorQuest College in Edmonton, Alberta, I was a member of the staff nursing team responsible for overseeing groups of practical nursing students in LTC. I saw first-hand how clinically challenging the work environment presented itself as a unique learning experience for the students.
The LTC environment will provide IENs with an excellent opportunity to become familiar with the Canadian health-care system and how health-care professionals work together as a collaborative team to provide patient-centred care, which often includes the promotion of family-centred caregivers as part of the team.
Mentorship opportunities such as my proposed program will afford the IEN the experience of managing the complete needs of an elderly person within the context of the Canadian health-care system. I envision this IEN job shadowing mentoring program as a “means to an end” in addressing the shortage of LTC nursing certification in our provinces, where many of our LTC facilities have subacute units addressing the chronic complex medical needs of elderly patients. Key to the success of this mentoring program are the nurse managers and clinical nurse educators, along with their staff nurses, championing the promotion of CNA certification in gerontology nursing and developing a communication model that includes all the required supports involved in the collaboration of the patient care team.
Marilyn McGreer, B.Sc., is a retired licensed practical nurse from Alberta. She is a CNA gerontological certification exam mentor and the owner/president of the Vocational Pathways Association of Edmonton.