Amid the COVID-19-induced healthcare crisis, an online platform has created a win-win situation – internationally trained professionals get valuable work experience, and long term care homes in Ontario fill their staff shortage.
By Shruti Dargan
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a healthcare crisis across the globe. At a time like this, when people are facing considerable psychological distress and there are fewer means to reach out to those who need assistance, a Canadian online platform is serving a much-needed purpose in the province of Ontario.
Launched by the Ontario Long Term Care Association (OLTCA) and powered by Tazwiz, Link2LTC is filling staff shortages in long term care homes across the province. How? By creating paid opportunities for qualified students and now internationally trained health professionals to serve in the long term care homes and gain valuable experience in Ontario’s health care system at a difficult time.
“COVID-19 might be the biggest challenge ever that has impacted the healthcare system in unprecedented ways. It has led to critical staffing shortages across the sector globally, long term care homes included. A number of our staff are off sick because of being exposed to the virus or because of other circumstances that require them to be away from work,” says Wiesia Kubicka, Vice President, Policy and Operations at the Ontario Long Term Care Association, which represents 70% of the province’s 630 homes accommodating more than 70,000 residents annually.
Their platform, Link2LTC, is open to healthcare students and internationally trained health professionals to apply for a variety of roles. It has been live since April 4 and “has seen a great response”, adds Kubicka. “We have seen around 240 jobs being posted across Ontario and over 500 applicants already, and growing. So, there’s an opportunity for professionals to get invaluable experience based on their credentials and years of experience that they might be bringing from other countries,” she says.
Dr. Luis Fernando Rivas, Managing Director, International Doctors Network, too, emphasizes the need to rope in internationally trained professionals in Canada’s healthcare system. He says, “The extensive medical knowledge and experience that most foreign-trained doctors and medical staff bring with them makes them suitable to fill the shortages right away, but unfortunately, the rules of a regulated profession like ours don’t always allow for that to happen as smoothly as one would desire.” Having said that, Rivas agrees that it’s important for newcomers to minutely understand the laws of the country they hope to practice in.”
The qualities that internationally trained health professionals possess go beyond just the necessary qualifications, advocates Dr. Shafi Bhuiyan, Founding Academic Director/Program Manager, Internationally Trained Medical Doctors (ITMD) Bridging Program at Ryerson University. “Those who have immigrated to another country have already proven that they have the resilience to move forward in their endeavours. Diversity is another big plus here that allows them to serve diverse individuals in the community with the same level of compassion,” he says.
The bridging program that Bhuiyan founded integrates international medical graduates into non-licensed jobs in Canada’s healthcare sector. Its participants are already educated about the medical field and its research. In the program, they get acquainted with the communication practices and workplace ethics followed in Canada, get assistance and mentorship regarding job interviews, networking and making job connections here, as well as learn about other less explored opportunities within the field.
How Bhuiyan wishes that every internationally trained doctor could be put to work amid this global COVID-19 pandemic. “Every frontline worker counts right now. There isn’t a better time to recognize their worth and let them contribute to support our health system,” he adds.
In the context of long term care homes in Ontario, there is scope. The positions available range from Resident Support Aide to Nurses, Dietary Aides, Unit Clerks, and more. Link2LTC allows qualified applicants to upload a profile outlining their education and clinical experience and their availability to work different shifts – day, afternoon and evening, while homes post opportunities and communicate through the built-in messaging function for pre-qualification assessment and to arrange an interview.
“Those who get hired will receive training to make sure that they feel equipped to provide the required care to the residents. With support from the government of Ontario, we have the personal protective equipment (PPE) and we are following a number of steps to make working in long term care safe, both for our staff and for the residents,” promises Wiesia Kubicka.
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