In 2014, the Joan Lesmond IEN of the Year Award was expanded to recognize both a registered nurse (RN) and a registered practical nurse (RPN). The two winners who received the award last November are CARE Centre member IENs who were nominated by their healthcare colleagues and had been previously recognized with nursing awards in their individual workplaces.

RPN IEN of the Year award-winner Adela Belisario came to Canada from Peru, starting out as a personal support worker at the Dorothy Ley Hospice after obtaining her certification from the Alzheimer Society of Toronto. Belisario earned her RPN licence and now works at Baycrest Health Sciences in complex continuing care. She is also working toward her RN designation.

An international community

“In Peru I was an operating room nurse for six years. In my home country, health care is a privilege not everyone can afford,” says Belisario. “But I felt that being a nurse was not only a job, but also a commitment to community health. I still feel the same way.”

RN IEN of the Year award-winner Ahmad Baki came to Ontario from Iran, where he was also a clinical instructor, and is now working in oncology at University Health Network. He returns to his home country to meet with senior officials to promote international nursing, as he himself has the perspective of working in several different countries.

“Ontario has a very progressive and innovative health care system in which nurses are respected as an essential discipline,” he says about his decision to settle here. “Toronto contains the most multicultural population in the world, according to UNESCO, and this makes IENs practically indispensable to the city.”

Filling the gap

Agrees Belisario, “It is my experience that IENs fill an important gap in health care. IENs help mitigate the shortage of Canadian-trained nurses. Thanks to the availability of IENs, nursing positions do not go unfilled. Moreover, IENs help address Ontario’s diversity. The province is blessed with people coming from every corner of the world. Multicultural IENs are well prepared to understand the needs and diversity of these patients.”