Written by Sharon Aschaiek

With workplace communication course for immigrants, nurse finds her way

In 2016, Georgena Simon began a new chapter in her life. That’s when she immigrated from India to Canada to join her new husband and start a fresh chapter. For Simon, part of this new life would involve returning to nursing, a field in which she already had five years of professional experience.

Shortly after settling in Toronto, Simon discovered the pathway to resuming her nursing career: a series of free work-oriented communication courses called Occupation-specific Language Training (OSLT). Geared to internationally trained newcomers to Ontario, these courses build understanding of specific occupations or sectors, and competence in workplace language skills (see sidebar).

Georgena Simon

Georgena Simon

For immigrants, this course makes a huge difference to our lives—it’s a kind of stepping stone to more opportunities.

In the fall of 2016, Simon began the Workplace Communication Skills for Health Care course at George Brown College. Over the next few months in this course, she learned about the range of health care workplaces in Ontario, and how to effectively communicate with colleagues, clients and supervisors. Importantly, she gained an understanding of the cultural aspects of professional communication in the health care sector.

Most of the course work revolved around using appropriate style, tone and grammar in a variety of health care focused communication formats and situations, e.g., asking patients for their medical information, corresponding by email or phone with a supervisor, and communicating on the job with doctors, radiologists and other members of the health care team.

What was especially eye-opening and useful to Simon was becoming familiar with the expectations of the nurse’s role in in the province. “I learned that here, nurses have more responsibility, and they also have a voice, and they can speak freely about issues related to the best interests of patients and the institution,” Simon says.

OSLT goes beyond communication training to include guidance in developing career-building skills. Participants learn how to optimize their résumé and cover letters, handle job interviews and build their professional network. The last of these unfolds naturally in class: Simon met and has stayed connected with several classmates, all fellow medical professionals from countries such as China, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria and South Korea.

Simon finished the OSLT course in March of 2017 and, soon afterward, began the formal process of qualifying to become a registered nurse in Ontario. During one assessment, she was grateful she could draw on her OSLT training to document a mock patient’s medical history. Later, she says, the training helped her feel more prepared for job interviews. She successfully applied to one of Toronto’s downtown hospitals and has worked there as a registered nurse for the last two years.

“I’m so thankful to my OSLT instructor, who did a really good job of helping me in a difficult time,” says Simon, who now lives near Toronto. “For immigrants, this course makes a huge difference to our lives—it’s a kind of stepping stone to more opportunities.”

Occupation-specific Language Training (OSLT) courses are free workplace communication training courses for immigrants. They are available full-time or part-time; classroom-based or online. These courses are offered at many Ontario colleges and cover a range of occupations in business, construction, health sciences, human services and technology. OSLT is funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and coordinated by Colleges Ontario.

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