CANADA is a popular destination for nurses from the UK who want to spend a year or more practising overseas. As a mainly English-speaking – although ethnically diverse – country with strong ties to the UK it has many cultural similarities with the UK, which can make it easier than many countries to settle into on arrival.
The country has seen some restructuring and downsizing in its healthcare provision in recent years, but demand for nurses is now growing and a shortage is predicted in the near future. The federal government has acted to minimise this shortage by improving nursing as a career option, with increased salaries, benefits and educational funding. While these initiatives were primarily aimed at attracting as many home-grown nurses as possible, those from overseas will also benefit.
Nurses with specialist skills in areas such as critical care, emergency care and surgery will find it easiest to obtain work, as will those who are willing to work in rural settings – the sheer size of the country means some of its 33 million residents live in small and often isolated communities. While most of the population is English-speaking, Quebec is a French-speaking province and others have a high proportion of French speakers. This means nurses who can speak both languages have an advantage in job-seeking. Most employers require nurses from overseas to have a minimum of two years’ post-registration clinical experience, and expect them to commit to working there for at least a year.
In addition to those wishing to spend a year or two over there, Canada is keen to recruit nurses wishing to move there for longer periods, or even permanently. It operates a skilled worker visa programme aimed at people with high levels of skills and experience – and nurses fit into this category.
Canadian healthcare is publicly funded, and the public sector is by far the biggest employer of nurses, although there are some private-sector employers. Unlike the UK, the country does not have a national system. It is organised more locally by each of its territories and provinces. This means UK-trained nurses wishing to register to practise in Canada must do so with the relevant authority – links to these are available on the Canadian Nurses Association website (see box).
Agencies can help nurses to find jobs in Canada, which is particularly helpful since there is no centralised place to apply for work. Each employing organisation organises its own recruitment, which can make it difficult to find work from the UK without professional help. Agencies can also help with the process of gaining registration and visa applications, and can often negotiate relocation funding to help with the expenses associated with moving to another country.
While agencies can do a great deal to smooth the way into a job in Canada, most advise nurses to ensure they meet the country’s registration requirements in terms of training hours and obtain the relevant documentation to demonstrate this. After an initial assessment by the nursing organisation for their chosen province or territory, they can obtain a temporary permit to practise. They must then sit a registration examination after arrival in Canada.
One of the real attractions of life in Canada is its huge range of climates and geographical environments – from its temperate south to the arctic north and from islands and plains in the east to mountains in the west. It has modern, vibrant cities with exciting cultural opportunities, rugged and remote landscapes offering outdoor activities and winter sports and a whole range in between. This and the generally high standard of living in Canada means most people can find a place there that offers them the environment and lifestyle that suits them and their family.
The improvements in nursing careers in Canada, and everything else the country has to offer, make it unsurprising that so many UK-trained nurses choose it as their destination for overseas practice.