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Nova Scotia's move to hire more nurses leads to exodus of continuing care assistants

Nova Scotia is looking to fill the ranks of continuing care workers after many made the switch to nursing. (Shutterstock - image credit)
Nova Scotia is looking to fill the ranks of continuing care workers after many made the switch to nursing. (Shutterstock - image credit)

Changes made to the credentialing process for foreign health-care workers in Nova Scotia last year led to an influx of nurses and an exodus of continuing care assistants from long-term care facilities.

The province is looking to the Philippines for help.

Starting in May, the Nova Scotia College of Nursing allowed people qualified as nurses in seven countries to be licensed immediately once they passed an entrance exam.

Prior to the change, all newcomer nurses had to undergo a lengthy, often costly, qualification process in order to be licensed in the province.

Many foreign-trained nurses took positions as CCAs while they worked to have their credentials recognized.

Once the change was implemented, there was a flood of applications for nursing positions from people who were already in the province and an outflow of CCAs from long-term care facilities.

According to Consuelo Lacson, the honorary consul for the Philippines in Nova Scotia, about 400 people — many from the Philippines — switched from CCA positions to nursing.

Tailoring Philippines training

The Nova Scotia government has made efforts in the Phillipines to recruit more CCAs.

Lacson said work is being done to ensure that caregiver training in the Philippines is tailored to the needs of Nova Scotia.

"We have to go back to matching our curriculum in the Philippines for caregivers and that of Nova Scotia," Lacson said. "That is in the works now."

According to Lacson, Filipinos are very passionate about their jobs, which makes them ideally suited to caregiver positions.

Natural choice

Jennifer L'Esperance, the senior executive director of the immigration and population growth branch of the Department of Labour, Skills and Immigration, said the Philippines is already one of the top three countries of origin for newcomers to the province and was a natural choice for recruitment.

Jennifer L'esperance is the senior executive director with immigration and population growth.
Jennifer L'esperance is the senior executive director with immigration and population growth.

Jennifer L'Esperance is the senior executive director with immigration and population growth. (CBC)

L'Esperance said work was done to determine if training and education there was comparable to what was needed in the province.

She said meetings were held with educational institutions and government departments in the Philippines and it was determined that it was a great fit.

In September 2023, Premier Tim Houston led a mission to the region with the recruitment of health-care workers as a primary objective.

L'Esperance said the team focused continuing care recruitment on Singapore and the Philippines.

Recruitment events

Two continuing care recruitment events were held in Manila that were extremely successful, L'Esperance said.

According to L'Esperance, employers in Nova Scotia have already made 74 job offers to people who were recruited during the mission.

"There's still many positions to fill, but we know that our immigration efforts are definitely helping," she said.

Angela Strong is a UNIFOR representative at a Nova Scotia long-term care facility. The union represents about 2,000 CCAs at long-term care homes across the province.

Strong said having workers come in from other countries is definitely helping with the shortage of continuing care workers.

"I don't know where long-term care would be if we didn't have international workers," Strong said.

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