Nearly 70 internationally educated nurses from about 15 countries are coming to practice at Alberta Health Services (AHS) as part of recruitment efforts designed to strengthen the organization’s rural health workforce and services.

The newly recruited nurses — all of whom are thoroughly screened and assessed to ensure they have the skills and experience to work as a registered nurse in Alberta — are now arriving in groups and continuing to arrive over the next few months. They will disperse to 30 AHS sites with the greatest staffing needs, starting in rural communities across northern and central Alberta. These AHS sites include hospitals, community health centres and long-term care facilities.

About 70 more nurses are anticipated to arrive in the next six months as they accept job offers and move through immigration, with more arriving in cohorts over the next two years.

“Our government is committed to removing barriers for internationally educated nurses to work in Alberta, and it’s exciting to see the results of our efforts paying off,” says Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Health. “Alberta is eager to welcome these newcomers, who will support the healthcare teams working tirelessly in rural communities, and we’re grateful to them for choosing our province as their new home.”

“We appreciate the remarkable journey of these nurses and the skills they bring to our rural workforce,” adds AHS President and CEO Mauro Chies. “They’ll benefit our rural sites immensely, which have experienced crucial staffing needs in recent years. Our existing workforce — the staff who’ve have been with us all along — are just as vital. Supporting them and helping them welcome these new team members are also part of our work to strengthen our workforce and system for Albertans.”

Stacy Greening, Chief Zone Officer for AHS North Zone, says filling even a single nursing position can make a big difference in rural sites and settings.

“Every health provider plays a critical role in caring for patients,” she says.

Greening’s Central Zone counterpart agrees.

“We are grateful to have these nurses joining our teams. Integrating into a community and workplace will be a big transition for them, and we know the warmth and support of our staff and communities will make an incredible difference,” says Janice Stewart, Chief Zone Officer for AHS Central Zone. “We look forward to working with them to help these nurses feel welcome.”

AHS launched a series of internationally educated nurse recruitment campaigns last year, attracting thousands of applications from around the world.

“These nurses have answered the call from across the globe, and they’re bringing a great deal of skill and experience with them,” says Fadumo Robinson, Associate Chief Nursing Officer, who is leading AHS’ internationally educated nurse recruitment and integration efforts. “We want them to succeed and find fulfilment in their new workplaces and communities. Our integration strategy encompasses clinical and non-clinical supports offered through AHS and within the communities.”

Internationally educated nurses already employed by AHS as licensed practical nurses or healthcare aides are being offered support to expand their skills and knowledge to become registered nurses.

Plans are also underway to recruit nurses to intensive care units and emergency departments in urban centres. These efforts align with AHS’ comprehensive health workforce strategy to build and strengthen its workforce across the province.