Search abroad pays off for Saskatchewan hospitals

By Diane Jermyn –
In 2008, a recruitment mission from the Saskatoon Health Region flew to the Philippines and offered contracts to 105 nurses. Out of the 95 who came, 93 passed the Canadian Registered Nursing Exam and are on the job at Royal University Hospital, Saskatoon City Hospital and St. Paul’s Hospital, as well as long-term care institutions and other health facilities throughout Saskatchewan. Only one went home. The nurses came on one-year work permits, but the team’s goal from the start was that the nurses would stay and become Canadian citizens.

“They’re like family now,” says Rhoda Yakubowski, a recruitment consultant with SHR, who worked on the home front settling the nurses in and educating colleagues who would be working with them. “It’s been fabulous. If you can’t find skilled workers, it’s definitely worthwhile.”

SHR, which retains most graduates from its nursing programs, chose to go international in its hunt because more nurses were needed to stabilize an aging work force. After some research, they found the Philippines to be a great market because the country educates a surplus of nurses in a comparable educational system. The recruitment team believed that, with a little help, the nurses would be successful in Canada.

The Saskatchewan team which travelled to the Philippines numbered nearly 40 people, including administrators and nurse managers from SHR as well as representatives from the province’s nursing educational institutions, the Registered Nurses’ Association, Union of Nurses, Saskatchewan Immigration and the other health regions in the province. It was headed by Bonnie Blakley, SHR’s vice-president of people strategy.

Before going, the group put together guidelines on recruiting ethically, such as not hiring more than 10 nurses from any one site so they wouldn’t harm existing health systems. They also worked with three overseas recruitment agencies, sifting through résumés and putting together a lineup they could see when they went over. Language was not a barrier. All the candidates spoke English and had to pass English language tests at a required level to be able to come to Canada.


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