Health Care Leaders Gather to Discuss Strategy to Integrate Internationally Educated Health Professionals to Help Meet Ontario’s Health Care Needs

TORONTO, April 11, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Today, World Education Services (WES) is convening leaders from hospitals, long-term care, and home care alongside other key health care stakeholders to talk about the role of immigrant health professionals in their sectors. This is the first time these stakeholders will assemble to share their vision of how to rebuild Ontario’s health workforce with the deliberate inclusion of internationally educated health professionals (IEHPs).   

IEHPs looking to contribute to Ontario’s health care system face challenges at every stage of their journey, including immigration, professional registration (licensure), and integration into the workplace at levels that match their skills. This forum will advance ideas on how Ontario can rebuild its health care system with a comprehensive health human resource strategy that addresses the challenges of IEHPs in re-entering their professions.

The forum will open with a roundtable conversation among senior health care leaders and IEHPs, who will share their experiences and vision for system-level strategies to bring the significant talent pool of IEHPs living in Ontario into the system. This discussion will be followed by an open dialogue among key health organizations including regulators, unions, professional associations, and educational institutions, as well as policymakers and IEHPs.

Featured speakers:

  • Donna Duncan, CEO, Ontario Long Term Care Association
  • Kelley Myers, Vice President, Human Resources and Organizational Development, VHA Home HealthCare
  • Ru Taggar, Executive Vice President, Chief Nursing and Health Professions Executive, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre  
  • Paolo Varias, Internationally Educated Nurse, Long Term Care Administrator
  • Dr. Joanna Walters, Internationally Educated Physician, Co-Founder and Director of Internationally Trained Physicians of Ontario (ITPO)
  • Moderator: Debbie Douglas, Executive Director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)

Ontario’s health care workforce is under tremendous strain. Yet the province has a database of over 8,000 internationally educated health professionals who registered with Ontario Health between 2017 and 2021. This database includes internationally trained nurses, doctors, medical lab technicians, respiratory therapists, and other health professionals who could be supporting our health care system and caring for patients. These numbers likely significantly underestimate the size of this talent pool. According to Statistics Canada, 47 percent of immigrants with health care education from abroad are underutilized.

Quick Facts:

  • Immigrants make up 25.5% of the health care and social assistance sector in Canada (Labour Force Survey 2017).
  • Of those with health education earned abroad, 47% are unemployed or underemployed in non-health jobs requiring only a high school education (Statistics Canada).
  • Immigrants make up 70+% of nurse aides, orderlies, and patient service associates in Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary ​ (Statistics Canada).
  • 25% of recent immigrants working in these roles hold at least a bachelor’s degree; of these, nearly 70% hold a nursing degree (Statistics Canada​).
  • Women make up 86% of the nursing home workforce and 89% of the home care workforce (CCPA Monitor 2020).
  • Racialized women make up 33% of nurses, aides, orderlies, and personal support workers, and 38% of the home support workforce.  (CCPA Monitor 2020).


  • We can’t ignore the thousands of internationally educated health professionals who are already in Ontario. And we certainly cannot afford to lose their skills and experience when our health care system needs health professionals. This convening is an important step forward in envisioning a plan for a health human resources strategy in Ontario that welcomes what internationally educated health professionals bring to the province. Shamira Madhany, Managing Director, Canada and Deputy Executive Director, World Education Services (WES)
  • We’ve discovered a significant number of our staff in PSW and patient observer roles at Sunnybrook are in fact internationally educated nurses. We are working to create an internal career path back to nursing so they can bring their full set of skills to our patients. Ontario needs to put in place the policies and supports to help us make this happen. The new Supervised Practice Experience Program for internationally educated nurses is a great example of how we can move forward collaboratively. Ru Taggar, Executive Vice President, Chief Nursing and Health Professions Executive, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre  
  • “Ontario has committed to providing an average of four hours of direct care for long-term care residents, which will mean an estimated 27,000 new staff by 2025.  At the same time, there is a critical human resource shortage across the entire health sector. Rebuilding and expanding our workforce through the contributions of internationally educated professionals is vitally important. We need an end-to-end strategy that facilitates and expedites their journey back into practice in Ontario.” Donna Duncan, CEO, Ontario Long Term Care Association 
  • A recent workforce survey showed us that 78% of our employees are immigrants and many have health care backgrounds. We need to work collectively--employers, government, educational and regulatory bodies, professional associations, and unions. That is the only way to ensure valuable health care professionals can quickly demonstrate their qualifications and competencies, return to their professions, and use the full scope of their skills to support our clients. Kelley Myers, Vice President, Human Resources and Organizational Development, VHA Home HealthCare
  • I am in the situation of essentially commuting between Jamaica and Canada to maintain my clinical skills, experience, and status as a qualified physician. I have eight years’ medical experience. The licensure process for too many internationally educated health professionals is between expensive choices like this: work for a few months at a hospital or clinic where I was trained, and then return to Canada; work part-time in a job I am overqualified for; or wait to write exams, and hope for one of the very few residency slots. This all comes at a great cost to our families, our personal health, and to the patients who we are not able to see and care for. This is a testament to a very broken system. Joanna Walters, MD, MPH, Internationally Educated Physician
  • My wife and I came to Canada to work as nurses—the career that we both trained for and acquired years of experience in. Yet the process of professional registration and getting jobs commensurate with our skills was lengthy, complex, and expensive. The pandemic has highlighted a long-standing need to put internationally trained health care workers back into their career fields, quickly and seamlessly. Quality patient care, a more diverse workforce, and a stronger health care system will result if barriers are removed and supportive policies are in place. Paolo Varias, RN, Long Term Care Administrator

About WES 
World Education Services (WES) is a non-profit social enterprise dedicated to helping international students, immigrants, and refugees achieve their educational and career goals in the United States and Canada. For more than 45 years, WES has set the standard of excellence in the field of international academic credential evaluation. Through WES Global Talent Bridge, the organization joins with institutional partners, community-based organizations, and policymakers to help immigrants and refugees who hold international credentials fully utilize their talents and education to achieve their academic and professional goals. Its philanthropic arm, the WES Mariam Assefa Fund, supports catalytic leaders and organizations working to build inclusive economies and to ensure that immigrants and refugees can achieve their aspirations and thrive.

For more information, contact Anne Greenwood, Director of Communications, World Education Services T: 416.972.5045 E: