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1. Untapped potential: Building coalitions to accelerate solutions for Internationally Educated Nurse (IEN) workplace integration

Learning Objectives & Theme Alignment: The purpose of this presentation is to explore how health leaders in the Greater Toronto & Hamilton (GTHA) area have developed coalitions to address the health human resource shortage through targeted strategies for internationally-educated nurse (IEN) workplace integration. Participant learning objectives include: 1) To understand key barriers and opportunities for meaningful IEN participation in the Canadian health workforce; 2) To describe practical strategies being adopted by healthcare organizations to support IEN transition to practice, including lessons learned, and; 3) To discuss the role of healthcare leaders in building partnerships to accelerate IEN integration and foster more inclusive work environments.


Activities, Methods, Innovations: The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the nursing resource crisis and drawn attention to the value of IENs as a cadre of diverse, multilingual professionals poised to help strengthen the nursing workforce. According to Statistics Canada, almost half of internationally-educated health professionals – including nurses – are under- or unemployed, highlighting an opportunity to tap into their skills and expertise. Although IEN challenges related to immigration, licensure and inclusive workplace transitions are complex and long-standing, the current climate has catalyzed intra-organizational and cross-sectoral partnerships to accelerate targeted strategies and solutions for IEN integration. This panel discussion explores an Ontario-based case of how healthcare organizations in the Greater Toronto & Hamilton (GTHA) area, IEN advocates and key sector partners have been collaborating during the pandemic, using evidence-informed approaches to support IENs’ transition to practice. Specific programs, including externships and practice-ready assessment models, will be discussed, followed by open dialogue with audience participants regarding other pan-Canadian approaches to support IENs.


Outcomes, Results: This case highlights the value of intra-organizational coalitions to achieve positive outcomes for patients, providers and health systems. Panelist will draw on local evaluation results and speak to the impact of IEN integration on the delivery of equitable, culturally-compassionate care, the development of more inclusive work environments, and on effective health human resource integration and retention. 


Conclusion: The underutilization of IENs is a significant issue that, if addressed, can not only help to buffer the current nursing workforce shortage, but also foster more inclusive care environments. Structural and systemic challenges faced by IENs are complex and cannot be solved by discrete approaches. This case study highlights the importance of developing partnerships to create and test leading practices to strengthen human resource capacity.


Leadership Lessons Learned:  Lessons from this case demonstrate the role of healthcare leaders in mobilizing support and evidence to create results. Drawing on both IEN and leader perspectives, reflections and recommendations for leadership will be provided, including practical strategies for how healthcare leaders can test and scale programs in their healthcare organizations to increase IEN participation as a workforce strategy.


System Changes: Sustainable health human resource strategies cannot be achieved in isolation, but rather must draw on intra-organizational and cross-sectoral expertise. Leadership at all levels – as outlined in this presentation – can help drive effective strategies to build nursing resource capacity and a more equitable system. 



Dr. Alexandra Harris - Manager, Professional Practice & Investigator, Institute for Better Health, Trillium Health Partners



Ruth Wojtiuk - Professional Practice Lead, CARE Centre for Internationally Educated Nurses

Dr. Charissa Cordon - Chief of Nursing Practice, Hamilton Health Sciences

Joy Navaroj - Internationally-Educated Registered Nurse (RN), Trillium Health Partners

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