York’s retraining program a hit with foreign nurses

Ontario is suffering from a mega-shortage of nurses, according to Lesley Beagrie, director of the School of Nursing in York’s Faculty of Health, reported the Toronto Star in a special Nursing Week section May 10. The shortfall is now about 4,000 and is expected to rise to 9,000 over the next three years.

"The main reason is the majority of nurses have reached 50 and are retiring," says Beagrie, who is also director of the York program for internationally educated nurses.

Launched in 2005, the program helps foreign-trained nurses who are landed immigrants of Canadian citizens upgrade or retrain as necessary to meet Canadian qualifications as quickly as possible. York can take 45 students per year (10 per cent are male). This leaves a waiting list of 300.

The enrollees are licensed registered nurses in their home jurisdiction but they need a bachelor of science in nursing degree, a requirement since 2005, to practise their profession in Canada. The course takes full-time students 20 months to complete. "They are full of knowledge, have clinical skills and most are mature," Beagrie says. "They come with big expectations and then are disappointed when they find out about the high Canadian standards that have to be met." The York program is designed to bridge the "baccalaureate gap" and to help these nurses understand the nursing culture in Canada.

Beagrie describes the York course as extraordinary. "It’s a jewel of a program. It meets society’s needs and gives people an opportunity to contribute to this country." It’s also a guaranteed job. Graduates can walk into three or four jobs with a starting salary of at least $45,000 a year.

York featured prominently in several stories in the Star’s Nursing Week section:

  • In 2006, India-trained nurse Punam Rawak and her husband moved to Toronto and Rawak discovered she needed a degree to qualify as an RN in Ontario. "I was very disappointed at first, but I feel the safety standards of practice in this country are very important," she says. One week after arriving in Toronto, she took the entrance exam for York’s program for internationally trained nurses and started the course in September 2006. "Here, I love everything about nursing. I feel so good my knowledge is respected and I am independent," Rawak says. "I also appreciate the patient’s comfort comes first – not like India." After she writes her RN exam next month, Rawak has work waiting for her at Toronto General Hospital.
  • In an article about Ontario’s pledge to fund 25 new nurse practitioner-led clinics, the Star cited a Primary Care Access Survey, undertaken by an independent research group at York University, that showed there are about 330,000 people in Ontario "in transit" – those who have held on to their doctor in another town or province but would otherwise be orphaned in their own community.
  • Dana Lang, a Romanian-born nurse, was profiled as a recent graduate of York’s program for internationally trained nurses. She made on dean’s honour roll and will write her RN exam next month and hopes to become an acute care nurse.
  • Rose Lapada, 49, was profiled as an RN who received an honourable mention in the Star Nightingale Awards. A senior cardiology nurse at Scarborough General for almost 20 years, she earned her bachelor of science in nursing in Manila in 1980 and updated her nursing credentials at York University when she came to Canada in the late 1980s. Her extensive volunteering has garnered her several awards, including the Scarborough Hospital Network’s highest honour, The Scarborough Hospital Chair’s Employee Award of Excellence in 2005.

Space scientists anxious about Phoenix landing

A US spacecraft named Phoenix is speeding toward Mars – and Canadian scientists are admittedly nervous. That’s because the probe, which is supposed to touch down on Mars later this month, is carrying a Canadian-built weather station, reported The Globe and Mail May 12. Even if the landing, which is set for May 25, goes without a hitch, the Canadian scientists won’t be celebrating until they know their weather station is working properly. "Turning on the instruments will be the most anxious moment because that will determine whether we did a good job," said Jim Whiteway, a space engineering professor in York’s Faculty of Science and Engineering, and lead scientist for Canada’s contribution to the Phoenix mission.

Aside from temperature, pressure and wind sensors, the weather station includes a "lidar" – a laser device that sends pulses of light into the sky and uses the data that bounces back to monitor dust and ice particles in the atmosphere. "We will be able to measure clouds," Whiteway said, "and clouds are very important for controlling the transport of water in the atmosphere."

Prepare for the ethical business landscape

Growing social pressure for firms to engage in socially responsible corporate behaviour led to the introduction last year of International Business Ethics, a course offered by York University’s Schulich School of Business, reported The Toronto Sun May 11. "The changing role of business in society is such that we’re no longer living in the 1960s, where government was strong in deciding for industry what is right and wrong in terms of how to treat their labour force and customers," says Dirk Matten, course instructor. "Businesses now have to grapple with these issues and make ethical decisions for themselves."

The course covers the factors that have led to the increasing focus on corporate ethics, including today’s rapidly evolving global business environment; growing demand by consumers and special-interest groups for socially mindful corporate behaviour; and increased media attention on corporate abuses and malpractices.

Ranked third among business schools worldwide for its integration of social and environmental issues into its curriculum by The Aspen Institute Centre for Business Education, Schulich is ensuring students are well-rounded enough to succeed in business.

"Increasingly, these things are equally as important as marketing and accounting," Matten says. Employers are also seeking graduates who are adept at functioning in a global business environment and dealing with international suppliers, customers and governments.

Employees motivated by management trust

They don’t have to trust their employers, but workers who feel they are trusted are more willing to take on extra responsibilities and provide better customer service, according to a study published in the May 9 issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology, reported The Province in Vancouver May 11. "Our findings lend support to the contention that when employees feel trusted by the organization, they are more likely to co-operate with it," said Sandra Robinson, a professor at the University of BC’s Sauder School of Business and co-author of the study.

Robinson, who teaches organizational behaviour and human-resources management, and Sabrina Deutsch Salamon, a professor in Atkinson’s School of Administrative Studies at York, examined employee surveys and customer sales and service records from 88 retail stores and concluded companies that communicate their trust to employees had better sales and customer service performance.

  • Deutsch Salamon’s study was discussed on CBC Newsworld May 9.

The rise of the single mother

Conventional wisdom says poverty is the primary cause of never-married mothering, but increasingly evidence suggests both poverty and never-married mothering are symptoms of a deeper problem, reported the Ottawa Citizen May 11. "Although there are many exceptions," writes Anne-Marie Ambert in a 2006 paper on one-parent families for The Vanier Institute of the Family, "over half of women who bear children alone not only create poverty but come from poverty." The professor emerita of sociology in York’s Faculty of Arts, adds that, in any case, "less than 50 years ago, the poor were not so likely to produce as many one-parent families as is now the case." Values, beliefs and morality are also factors, she says, beginning with an ethos of individualism that emphasizes rights rather than duties. This, coupled with an ideology of gratification, particularly sexual and psychological, meant procreation became increasingly separated from marriage even as women, often conspicuously unprepared for motherhood, were encouraged to keep and to bond with their newborns as a "right."

Disaster: Are you prepared?

It’s emergency preparedness week (May 4-10), and all levels of government are asking citizens to be ready for the worst. But most Surrey residents aren’t, reported BC’s Surrey North Delta Leader May 8. David Etkin is the graduate program director of York’s  Disaster & Emergency Management Program. He doesn’t think most people are prepared for even minor disasters, and they should be. "We’re actually very vulnerable in this type of society because we’re so dependent on the system to support us," he said.

Etkin was in Toronto when a blackout shut down the northeast US and Ontario in 2003. He had to walk home from work, and he couldn’t find a store that could sell him a drink without electricity to run their cash registers. He finally bought one off a street vendor.

"It makes sense to have reasonable precautions, and if it costs you very little to do something, why not do it?"

Universities throw open their science doors

Saturday, a number of research centres at universities and hospitals were throwing open their doors for Science Rendezvous to show the citizens what makes Toronto science central, reported The Globe and Mail May 10, then listed universities as contributing factors. The University of Toronto is an academic powerhouse. But don’t overlook its smaller counterparts, wrote the Globe. York University is strong in space research and Ryerson University has developed niche specialties, such as medical physics.

Jewish protesters attend Palestinian rally

The 60th anniversary of the creation of Israel is also the 60th anniversary of what Palestinians call al-Naqba – the catastrophe – marked Saturday with a peaceful rally by about 400 people at Queen’s Park, reported the Toronto Star May 11. There was a heavy police presence, including a mounted unit, at the rally. A handful of Jewish protesters were kept behind a barricade at the northern corner of the Legislature entrance. York University student Mike Khardas said the group’s posters and activities were intended to highlight the fact that 800, 000 Jews were also refugees when they were kicked out of 22 Arab states in 1948. He said the group’s counter-rally wasn’t intended to be inflammatory.

On air

  • Atmospheric scientist Gordon Shepherd, director of York’s Centre for Research on Earth & Space Science, talked about the recent release of his new book, Canada’s Fifty Years In Space: The COSPAR Anniversary, on the “Morning Show” (CKOM-AM) in Saskatoon May 9.