Helping internationally educated nurses achieve their dreams

MRU’s Bridge to Canadian Nursing expanding; bolstering health care system

Photo of Robyn Stewart with Bridge to Canadian Nursing students in lab.

Robyn Stewart, co-ordinator of MRU's Bridge to Canadian Nursing Program, with students during lab training.

Louie Marie Lupot spent nearly five years as an OBGYN and Labour Room Nurse in a maternity hospital in her native Philippines before moving to Canada with her family as a landed immigrant in 2015. Her dream was to continue her career as an Registered Nurse (RN) and Mount Royal University’s Bridge to Canadian Nursing (BCN) program is helping her achieve it.

To meet a growing demand from health-care workers as Alberta battles the COVID-19 pandemic, Mount Royal University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery is expanding its BCN program, providing a crucial step for nurses trained in other countries to help save lives here.

Starting this fall, the program will accept 120 Internationally Educated Nurses (IEN) per academic year, an increase of 40. These students will begin the program in the winter and fall 2021 terms. This follows a sharp increase in demand from 150 applicants in 2017 to 375 in 2019.

The BCN program began in 2006 and attracts students from all over the world, including the Philippines, India and other Asian countries as well as the U.K., U.S. and the Caribbean. The only bridging education program of its kind in Alberta, BCN allows students to get the additional education they need to meet Canadian standards of nursing education and practice.

“I am able to bridge my home country nursing experience to be a valuable contributor as a frontliner here in Canada,” said Lupot. “MRU’s Bridge to Canadian Nursing is the most holistic and comprehensive approach that translates readily into workplace knowledge and will get me up and running into my new career in no time.”

Courses are developed to meet the requirements of the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta (CARNA) and were designed to provide internationally educated nurses with the required education needed to obtain their licence and registration as an RN in Alberta.

“Nurses are always needed and professional nurses who immigrate to Canada but are not able to obtain a licence are an untapped source of knowledge and skill,” said Robyn Stewart, assistant professor at MRU and co-ordinator of the BCN Program. “Internationally educated nurses have many strengths in both character and nursing practice and experience, including resiliency, determination, patience, strong work ethic and cultural understanding.”

One of those students is John Dominic, a 2009 nursing graduate from the University of Calicut, Kerala, India. Dominic worked in India as a RN for four years at Creative Plastic Surgery Group before moving to Canada in 2014.

“MRU is the only bridging program recognized by CARNA to train internationally trained nurses in Alberta. The Bridge to Canadian Nursing Program has increased my awareness of the standards required to be met by a practising RN in Alberta.”

Dominic, who is currently working as a Licensed Practical Nurse at Unit 5B1 (In-centre Hemodialysis) at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton, says the COVID-19 pandemic has put added pressure on health-care providers.

“It has been a bit stressful during the pandemic with social distancing and the extra precautions that need to be followed at the workplace,” he said. “The wonderful team of nurses and health-care workers that I work with has made things a lot easier. The support from my family has been immense. The pandemic has given me a new perspective about the important work a lot of people do. I am sure we will get through this and be stronger when we get to the other side.”

The BCN program focuses on communication skills for, professional nursing in Canada, health alterations and therapeutics, health assessment, professional nursing skills, clinical reasoning skills, nursing theory and nursing clinical practice in a medical/surgical environment. Course work is also offered to help IENs address knowledge and practice differences in mental health, child health and family newborn health.

Photo of Robyn Stewart with Bridge to Canadian Nursing students in classroom.

The Bridge to Canadian Nursing Program attracts internationally trained nurses from around the world looking to practice in Alberta.

Candidates may take one or more courses depending on their learning needs. IENs completing all required credits in the program receive a certificate of achievement.

For Lupot, who has finished the program and is now waiting for approval to practise from CARNA, the BCN program has helped her realize a dream.

In particular, Lupot points to the program’s clinical exposure that helped her learn about the Canadian health-care system and the role of clinical reasoning and critical thinking in making nursing decisions to provide competent, safe and ethical nursing care.

She is grateful for  “the hard work of the professors and instructors in imparting their knowledge to IENs.”

“Without them we wouldn’t be where we are right now. They are the centerpiece of our studies and the knowledge they shared with us is essential for us to face the challenge of being a registered nurse in this country.”

Lupot is working as a casual Health Care Aide for Alberta Health Services and as a casual LPN in a mental health unit in AgeCare SkyePoint seniors care community.

The challenges of working in a clinical setting during the pandemic are substantial, but Lupot believes she’s prepared.

“I have to isolate myself away from my children when I get back from work. It made me very cautious in handling equipment in the workplace and making sure that I don’t get complacent in a job that demands my utmost attention. Times are changing definitely, but I believe that I am ready and this is what I signed up for so I am doing the best I can using the skills and knowledge I learned at MRU.”

Stewart says she feels pride in seeing the program expand.

“The program is now equipped to offer even more IEN students the opportunity to meet their goals of becoming registered nurses in Canada. It is a pleasure and privilege to spend my time with IENs, learning together a little more about life and nursing practice every day.”

Learn about the School of Nursing and Midwifery in the Faculty of Health, Community and Education. Read how MRU nursing and midwifery students are being fast-tracked into the workforce to help during the COVID-19 crisis.

June 16, 2020 — Peter Glenn

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