Establishing a New Life in Canada: A Long Way from Home


As the Associate Director for the non-degree programs at the Centre for Nursing Studies (CNS), I have the privilege of working with current and the next generation of health-care professionals as they complete their studies at the CNS. Nestled at 100 Forest Road at Southcott Hall for the past 19 years, and operated by Eastern Health, the CNS is the largest nursing school in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Prospective and current health-care professionals have a variety of options at the CNS when deciding to start or continue their studies, and we’re here to help them navigate their way forward. Programs include:

  • a four-year Bachelor of Nursing (Collaborative) Program and a Licensed Practical Nursing Bridging option, offered in partnership with Memorial University School of Nursing and Western Regional School of Nursing;
  • a four semester Practical Nursing (PN) Program;
  • re-entry programs;
  • post-basic courses/programs for RNs and LPNs;
  • a Substantive Equivalent Competence Assessment (SECA);
  • a Pathway to Success program for IENs; and
  • an International Educated Nurse (IEN) Bridging Program.

Denise English, Associate Director for non-degree programs at the Centre for Nursing Studies

The Bridging Program for IENs is unique to the CNS and one I work closely with. It was developed to facilitate a pathway for IENs to be registered and licensed in Newfoundland and Labrador or elsewhere in Canada, and to make a successful transition to practicing in the Canadian context. Almost daily, the CNS receives inquiries from IENs from local, national and/or international nurses who are interested in the Bridging Program or the competency-based assessment service provided by the CNS.

History of the Bridging Program 

Newfoundland and Labrador has a long and successful history of recruiting IENs, particularly for the rural and remote areas of our province. Over the past 10-15 years, there has been an increase in the number of IENs who have migrated to Canada. While some have independently migrated through formal immigration processes, others were recruited to work in health-care environments through private or provincial initiatives.

The Bridging Program was designed to facilitate the integration of IENs into Canadian nursing practice by providing learning opportunities that built on previous nursing knowledge and experience. The development and implementation of the Bridging Program was guided by Canadian health-care system trends and issues, and the professional practice of nursing.

“We are proud of the successful program that is being offered at the Centre, and we’re confident that International Educated Nurses are receiving quality learning opportunities in a supportive environment, that are relevant to their needs,” says Dr. Kathy Watkins, Director, CNS. “The program, taught by experienced and dynamic nurse educators at the CNS, facilitates the successful integration of IENs into the nursing profession to provide safe, competent, compassionate and ethical nursing care.”

The Launch

As we developed our approach, we needed to ensure that any IEN deciding to apply to the CNS knew they were enrolling in a program that would prepare them to work in a Canadian province – and fill their professional ‘tool box’ with the knowledge and skills necessary to provide the best health care to their clients.

In the Fall of 2016, we were anxiously waiting for the first large cohort of IEN candidates to enroll in the program. And we weren’t disappointed: 23 IEN candidates from across Canada enrolled in the full bridging program!

First cohort of IEN candidates who completed the Bridging Program, Fall 2017

Initially, the program was delivered using print-based materials, but in 2016, the program progressed to online learning – which allowed the IENs to stay in their home country or province to complete the theory aspects of the program.

“Online program delivery is efficient, current, and reliable, which has decreased barriers to continuing education for IENS – and increased access to various materials and instruction methods,” says Peggy Rauman, a former coordinator of Continuing Nursing Studies.

“Also, the provision of online discussion forums creates a simulated classroom setting where students become acquainted with each other, share their points of view, establish friendships, and create and maintain a supportive social network.”

Meanwhile, any on-site sessions are carefully planned to keep travel time to St. John’s and/or Canada to a minimum.

The NL Experience!

Since the first arrivals in 2016, the CNS has welcomed two more groups of IENs to Newfoundland and Labrador to complete the final phase of a rigorous nursing program – the laboratory and clinical components. Although currently living in Canada, the IENs originated from a variety of countries, including India, Nigeria and the Philippines. A long way from home!

IEN candidates who arrived in St. John’s, January 2018 to complete the final components of the Bridging Program

Embarking on the journey to attain a Canadian license as a registered nurse was very courageous. Not only did the IENs move from their ‘home’ country to migrate to Canada, many then had to travel across the country to St. John’s to complete the final program requirements.

That meant leaving their families to find a place to live, adjust to a new province, enter a new school, meet new people, and enter new health-care settings. Despite this, their tenacity and commitment to the Bridging Program was truly commendable. While each has his/her own personal story, all of them are united in their aspirations for a bright and happy future in Canada. And their gratitude is obvious, expressed in comments like these:

“Thank you for everything, for trusting in all of us, in believing that we are ready to face nursing in Canada with confidence and with the knowledge that we will be needing…I will never forget this experience and will cherish all memories.”

“I am so grateful that I chose to be a part of the IEN Bridging Program at CNS. Faculty and staff are supportive and answer all students’ concerns in a timely manner. The program provided all my needs to be a graduate nurse here in Canada. Highly recommended!”

The mentoring and support that the IENs receive from the faculty, staff and administration at the CNS is remarkable and greatly appreciated by those who choose to enroll in our program:

“Thanks so much CNS and Eastern Health, for accepting us and guiding us through our journey to become Canadian nurses. It was such a great and unforgettable experience. I am very grateful to our clinical instructors and preceptors who were always there to support … no matter what. What a wonderful place to be!”

The IEN Bridging Program at the Centre for Nursing Studies helped me gain confidence to work as a registered nurse in Canada. The theory subjects helped me expand my knowledge about how Canadian nurses deal with patients with different and complex needs. On the other hand, the practicum helped me hone my skills. Enrolling at the CNS was one of the best decisions I have ever made!”

The staff, faculty and administration here at the CNS applaud every one of our International educated nurses – and offer our sincere congratulations on their great accomplishments.

To the candidates who have successfully written the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) and have secured positions as registered nurses in Canada – we applaud you. For those who will write the NCLEX-RN in the near future – we wish each candidate a successful outcome.

And to all current IEN participants – may you experience much joy, success and fulfilled hopes as you embrace Canada as your new ‘home’ – while in school – or as a new Canadian citizen. Your success is our success … we learn from you, too!

But the last words, we leave to you:

“Thank you for helping us bridge the gaps to fulfill our goal – being great RNs.”

“Thank you for being God’s instrument for making our dreams to be an RN in Canada come to life.”

“My gratitude for your contribution in my future success is immeasurable.”

This story was written by Denise English, Associate Director for the non-degree programs at Eastern Health’s Centre for Nursing Studies.

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