Helping people heal is at the heart of nursing, but the communication skills needed to do the job effectively vary in different countries.
“I learned how to ask patients the right questions, collect information from clients in the right way, interact with my coworkers – all the important language skills for being a nurse in Canada.”
That’s what Nadya Tshilolo learned firsthand when she immigrated to Canada from the Congo in 2012. Arriving with five years of experience as an intensive care unit and emergency nurse in her home country, Tshilolo was sure she had the technical expertise to continue in the profession in Canada. Then she discovered a course that made her realize what she was missing: the language skills and cultural knowledge needed to practise effectively in a Canadian healthcare workplace.
Workplace Communication Skills for Health Care is a free course offering work-oriented language training to newcomers. Offered at several colleges throughout Ontario, this 180-hour course teaches how to effectively interact with clients, colleagues and supervisors in health-care settings such as hospitals, clinics and nursing homes. The course also provides an overview of the cultural aspects of health-care workplaces in Canada. Finally, participants cultivate strong interviewing, networking and career-building communication skills, and make connections with local health care employers, associations and employment resources.
Last fall, Tshilolo began taking the course at George Brown College three evenings a week – the hours worked well with her then full-time day job outside her field as a customer service representative. Through a mix of small group exercises and role-playing activities, she developed practical work-related communication skills such as crafting appropriate emails, documenting patient histories and conversing with colleagues.
“I learned how to ask patients the right questions, collect information from clients in the right way, interact with my coworkers – all the important language skills for being a nurse in Canada,” Tshilolo says.
Also valuable to Tshilolo was learning how to optimize her resumé, draft customized and effective cover letters and thank-you notes for employers, and perform well in job interviews. She and her classmates even learned insider tips on job hunting from a guest speaker from the health care field. As well, she was able to build her professional network with members of her class, which included nurses from countries such as Iran, the Philippines, South Korea and Uganda.
“I learned a lot that I was able to apply to my job search after the course. I always referred to my notes,” Tshilolo says. “Also, my classmates and I created a group on Facebook, so when someone has a job interview or nursing exam coming up, we can help each other.”
The course Tshilolo took is part of Occupation-specific Language Training (OSLT), a series of workplace communication training courses for immigrants with training and/or experience in the following sectors: business, construction, health sciences, human services and technology. Funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and coordinated by Colleges Ontario, these courses are offered at 13 Ontario colleges as full- or part-time options, in person, completely online, or as a blend of both.
For Tshilolo, the OSLT course not only provided her with key professional communication skills, it strengthened her confidence in her ability to resume her nursing career in Canada. Shortly after completing the course in March 2016, she secured a job as a health case manager at a health care services and information technology firm in Mississauga. She works as part of a team with other nurses, a physician and a pharmacist to monitor the side effects of different medicines.
“This course was an amazing experience for me,” says Tshilolo, who is also currently completing a nursing bridging program at York University so she can become qualified to practise in Ontario. “I learned a lot about workplace communication in Canada, and it has been very important to my career development.”