Shara Buenaventura became so frustrated while trying to have her ICU nursing credentials recognized in Ontario, she returned to the Philippines for nine months — mid-pandemic — to keep her skills sharp.
“I went back as an ICU nurse and I came back here again with the hope that I will be assessed. But until now, I didn’t get any answer,” said Buenaventura.
She now works part-time in non-ambulatory care, helping to transfer non-urgent patients from one hospital to another.
“Some of my days I get into the hospital and I just really feel sad. I know I can do more. I know I can help. I know what to do. And it’s frustrating. I feel sad, and it’s kind of depressing because your hands are tied.”
After working for years in ICUs in the Philippines and in the Middle East, she says she could easily step into a similar role in Canada.
She’s been trying for three years to have her skills recognized, after arriving in Canada a decade ago.
Buenaventura is part of the Integrated Filipino Canadian Nurses Association (IFCNA), which advocates for nurses who wish to return to their specialty.
“It’s very frustrating. Some have already given up. Some have now settled to be a personal support worker where in fact their skills are taken for granted,” said IFCNA President Jennifer Lopez.
Her rough estimate: there are some 2,000 members in her organization who are not practising nursing.
“I don’t know why we are subjected to so much strain as we want to step in to help the health-care system which is in dire need of nurses,” said Lopez, who works in a hospital now.
“If the Minister of Health is leaning toward public safety, where is the public safety when patients are there in Emergency waiting longer, and paramedics are waiting longer to off-load because there are not enough nurses?”
In its latest jobs report, Statistics Canada said there were 23,620 vacant nursing positions nationally in the first quarter of 2022.
It also said nursing vacancies in early 2022 “were more than triple (+219.8%) the level of five years earlier, illustrating the extent to which longer-term trends may be contributing to the current challenges facing hospitals and other health-care employers.”
Given that shortage, Buenaventura doesn’t understand the many years of delay in recognizing foreign-trained nurses like her.
“Until now I didn’t get any answer. So that’s how frustrating it is,” she said.
“Some of them have lost their hope and some of them are working in a warehouse or factory. Some of them have chosen a different career path.”