originally published February/March 2008
Many of you newcomers who were doctors, dentists, nurses etc. in your homelands find recertifying in Canada too costly and too lengthy. You many have settled for work in unskilled low-paying jobs. There is another option. You can use your medical knowledge, gain some new skills and transfer into other health related careers. You will find these medical fields by looking into the Associations Canada Directory, which is available in the public libraries.
In several 2007 Learning Curves issues, we outlined how to use the Associations Canada Directory to find networks of peer professionals in Canada in order to move back into your field. We featured engineers, computer professionals and business support professionals, arguing that by joining associations and networking, newcomers could find job leads and use the associations’ job banks.
In this issue we outline how to use the associations in the Directory to find health-related fields and how you can transfer your skills into related fields like health management.
For example by using Associations Canada we found the Ontario Hospital Association’s website www.oha.com , which lists Health Record Technician as one of the occupations with the highest job vacancy rates. Internationally trained medical professionals have a good understanding of health record systems to start with and could add to this knowledge through college programs. In the George Brown College Continuing Education Calendar in the Health Sciences Section, you will find two certificate programs: Health Records and Health Services Management. You could start your transition plan by taking courses towards one of these certificates while you consider enrolling in George Brown’s diploma program in Health Information Management.
At the same time, you could start a job search for entry-level employment in the medical records departments of hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, insurance companies etc. To move from an entry level position into a career path that leads you back to a health professional level, you may need to add courses in computer technology. George Brown College offers a Graduate Certificate in Health Informatics which will educate you in the electronic information and communication tools which are transforming health records management. By transferring your medical background into a career path in health management, you could transform your life.
You might also use this college training to enter a university degree program. Colleges have partnerships with universities so that credits from the colleges can be transferred to a university-partnered program. In this one example alone there are many career paths you could take.
Institution and Business Organizations
Besides the Ontario Hospital Association, there are many other health-care related institutions and businesses. Here are some associations that should bring to mind other ways to transfer your skills: Ontario Association of Medical Laboratories, Drug Manufacturers Association of Canada (non-prescription drugs), Canadian Medical Device Industry (Industry Canada Web Site), the Canadian Medical and Bioengineering Society; Ontario Home Care Association, Ontario Long Term Care Association, Hospice Association of Ontario; Ontario Federation of Community Mental Health and Addiction Programs and so on.
The hundreds of associations for a specific profession in health care and hundreds more for a specific illness or condition offer another way to transfer your skills. Each of these associations uses information technology specialists to organize mailing lists for member or donors. They need management staff to organize conferences, publish newsletters and magazines and do public education. They value staff with a medical background.
Professional associations that go beyond the usual Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons, Nurses and Dentistry include the Ontario Society for Nutritional Professionals in Public Health, Ontario Opticians Association, Ontario Society of Medical Technologists, Ontario Medical Secretaries Association, Dieticians of Canada, Canadian Society of Medical Biochemists, Ontario Pharmacists’ Association and the list goes on.
Specific Illness Associations
Associations for a specific illness or condition also number in the hundreds. Here is a sampling: the Alzheimer Society of Ontario, The Arthritis Society, Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Ontario Brain Injury Association, Canadian Mental Health Association, the Migraine Association of Canada, Osteoporosis Society of Canada, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, Ontario Palliative Care Association, Parkinson Society of Canada, Canadian Cancer Society, Canadian Diabetes Association, Canadian Red Cross, Canadian Neurological Society
In addition to these associations many hospitals have Foundations which raise money for health care and research like the Toronto Hospital Foundation. In fact, this is such large field that there is an association just for healthcare fundraising professionals, the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy.
There are vast opportunities for you to transfer your health care skills into a related field. You will again work as a health care professional. And you will not have to go through the long and expensive process of recertifying as a doctor, nurse or dentist
Applying to college
Remember when applying to colleges to apply as an adult student, that is, as a mature student. Mature Student Status is for those who do not have an Ontario Secondary School Diploma or equivalent although your high school diploma from your country is often considered to be equivalent. Colleges take into consideration a matur0e student’s previous learning and experience from other countries as well as from Canada.
Many colleges have information sessions for adult students. Ask about these or ask to speak to an admissions advisor.
Once you are admitted to college, you may be able to get credits from your previous education or demonstrate your mastery of a required course through a Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition process (PLAR). PLAR allows many ways for you to prove your previous experience: challenge exams, an interview with a subject expert, a portfolio of records that document your knowledge and experience etc. PLAR will save you time and money.
Whatever you decide to do with your skills in the area of health care, there is a course for you. Look at the continuing education/part time calendars and the full time calendars to find a multitude of possibilities.
The chart hows a sampling of medical/health care careers which should be placed at the end of this article.
A Sampling of Health/Medical Career Training
George Brown College
Post Diploma Certificate Acquired Brain Injury Support Services
Certificate Medical Office Assistant.
Advanced Diploma Hearing Instrument Specialist
Diploma Activation Coordinator/Gerontology.
Diploma Orthotic and Prosthetic Technician
Certificate Gerontology (Pharmaceutical industry)
Certificate Gerontology (Addiction Studies)
Advanced Diploma Biomedical Engineering
Advanced Diploma Massage Therapy
Certificate Health Safety and Environmental Processes
Certificate Medical Device Sales
Certificate Pharmacy Technician
Certificate Hospice Palliative Care
Graduate Program in Autism and Behavioural Science
Bioinformatics Graduate Certificate
Advanced Diploma Biotechnology (Research)
Ryerson’s G. Raymond Change School of Continuing Education
Certificate Fundraising Management
Certificate Health Services Management
Certificate Occupational Health and Safety