To work in Canada as a licensed health provider, individuals are required to pass a licensing exam. Unfortunately, even if you have already worked as a physician or health care provider in another country, you will still need a new licence to practise in Canada.
But there is good news: You do not have to start all over again.
Immigrants with a background in health care can take “bridging classes.” These classes are designed to skip the basics. Instead their focus is on teaching the specific training that is required to practise in Canada.
Many licensing bodies will require internationally educated health professionals (IEHPs) to start with a prior learning assessment (PLA). This helps them evaluate how much your education and background has already prepared you to work in Canada—and what you still need to learn to earn your new licence.
Your PLA will need to be completed before you are eligible to take a new licensing exam.
Based on the results of your assessment, you will be instructed to do one of the following:
- Enroll in a full-time educational program
- Enroll in a part-time “bridging” program
- Go straight to the licensing exam
If you are not granted the option to immediately take the exam, don’t worry! There are many full-length and “bridging” programs available throughout Canada. The important thing is to find the right school and program to meet your needs.
Below are five tips that can help you choose the right program for you.
Tip 1: Look for a program with online or evening classes.
It can be hard to go back to school while you are also working full-time. Thankfully, many schools understand this, and it shouldn’t be hard for you to locate programs with flexible schedules.
For example, the Michener Institute of Education in Toronto offers evening classes for its four bridging programs:
- Medical Laboratory Science
- Radiological Technology
- Ultrasound Scanning Evaluation
- Health Care Essentials
In each program, IEHPs have the chance to:
- Review theory components
- Gain simulated laboratory experience
- Prepare for the licensing exam
All of this can be done after-hours, allowing you to earn income and gain additional work experience while preparing to take your licensing exam.
Another example is the Bridge to Registration and Employment in Mental Heath (BREM) program at the Mennonite New Life Centre in Ontario. This bridging program is available online to qualifying individuals who are unable to travel to the campus. Online participation allows greater flexibility of participation in your coursework; however, please note that there is a supervised placement and job mentoring portion that has to be completed in-person.
Many health care bridging programs in Canada offer at least part of their coursework or training online.
One last thing to consider is your schedule. If you want to get started right away, a college or university program might not work for you because they are planned according to school semesters. If you are looking for classes in the spring, you might not find a new program starting again until the fall.
Look for IEHP programs with ongoing enrollment, like the Medical Radiological Technology bridging program at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. The program accepts continuous intakes, so you can start training as soon as you complete your placement exam, helping you to get licensed and begin working in your field sooner.
Tip 2: Learn about a school’s reputation and its licensure success rate before enrolling.
The bridging program you choose can have a big impact on your future success. It’s important to look closely at what the program entails before committing to it.
Start by reaching out to the school. Ask about the success rate of your prospective program. For example, what percentage of its students go on to pass the licensing exam? You can also ask the licensing board that completed your learning assessment if they recommend any schools or programs for you to attend.
A third option is to simply go online and look at feedback from recent graduates. For example, the Ontario Internationally Educated Physical Therapy Bridging (OIEPB) program at the University of Toronto offers several testimonials from past participants on its website.
If you cannot easily locate reviews for your school’s bridging program online, try reaching out to the school and finding out if a former student is willing to contact you.
Tip 3: Make sure that you will be learning the most recent procedures and techniques.
In a fast-changing field like health care, you want to be sure that the program you are attending is up-to-date. In addition to seeking new and updated classes, look for schools with modern equipment and labs. This will not only help you obtain your licence; it will also make you a more competitive employee during your job search.
Of course, a school’s most important asset is its educators. Seek teachers with an extensive background in your field. It might be a bonus if you find someone who participates in continued learning opportunities, so they always know about the latest developments in your industry.
You can also look for schools that regularly update their curricula or add new programs. This could indicate that a school is interested in constantly growing and improving. They are likely adding classes that reflect modern student needs and interests.
Michener just added a new bridging program for Ultrasound Scanning Evaluation. This program provides an overview of ultrasound scanning protocols and procedures, before focusing on the core skills required for the latest version of the Canadian Clinical Skills Assessment (CCSA).
Students also learn important patient care skills—which is always a great detail to note on your résumé and cover letter once you have obtained your licence and begin looking for jobs.
Tip 4: Make sure that pursuing a licence is right for you.
Not everyone needs a licence to work in health care. Immigrating to Canada might inspire you to consider new opportunities.
If you do not want to pursue licensure in Canada, you might benefit from courses and training that develop your “transferable skills.” This will help you take your existing knowledge and experience and use them to further your career in a similar, but different, role to the one you held back home.
One option is the Internationally Trained Medical Doctors (ITMD) Bridging Program at Ryerson University, which is intended for internationally trained doctors who want to transition into non-licensed health care employment. This can open the door to a variety of health care careers in Canada.
Look for classes that provide job-specific training while also helping you develop “soft skills.” These are traits that will make you stand out to employers in every field. For example, you might want to work on your communication skills. You might also benefit from foundational leadership skills.
The Health Care Essentials bridging program at Michener can help you acquire fresh training in your field. But it also offers lessons that go beyond health care. For example, it teaches networking skills and helps people draft résumés that will appeal to local employers. These are all lessons that will facilitate a successful transition into a non-licensed health care profession.
Tip 5: Choose the program that is right for you.
Canada offers many schools, programs, and classes for IEHPs. No matter what your goals are, it is useful to continue your education and training once you arrive. It is simply a matter of choosing the right program for you.
Think about your ideal job, and consider the career path that will lead you there. You might need to acquire a new licence in your field, but you might not. If you do, you may consider going back to school full-time. However, many people will learn that a bridging program can save them significant time and money, while still preparing them to pass their licensing exam.
As soon as you decide what will make you feel fulfilled as both a person and a professional, you can investigate the options in your area. Then, it is up to you to determine which school and program are the right fit.
We hope these tips help you on your path to success. Best of luck!
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