For Thelma, a registered nurse (RN) from Nigeria, being accepted into a nursing program in her country was a dream come true. It was an opportunity to do something meaningful with her life. Three years of study and a one-year hospital internship later, Thelma obtained her RN qualification.
After three years of working as a registered nurse, Thelma and her husband, Dr. Chibuike, decided to immigrate to Canada. “My husband is very adventurous. He wanted to improve and challenge himself, see the world, and I wanted to be by his side,” indicates Thelma.
In 2011, while in Nigeria, Thelma began the process of becoming an RN in Canada. She applied to the National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS). As part of the process, she sent documents indicating she had completed a nursing education program and provided references from her last nursing manager.
Thelma and her husband planned to leave together, but her immigration process was delayed. In 2011, her husband left for Canada to start a master’s degree. Six months later, in 2012, she joined him in Saskatoon.
Within two weeks, Thelma got a job as a care aide/personal support worker through a home health care service to provide companionship to a client. Then, with her husband’s help, she found a second job in a retirement home. She provided care aid and housekeeping services. At the same time, Thelma worked in a care home as a care aide. It was a busy time for her.
Even though Thelma was very fortunate to get those jobs, they were only a means to support her household. As an international student, her husband was allowed to work 20 hours a week at the most, so she was the primary income earner. Thelma’s goal was to work as a registered nurse.
It was only two months after arriving in Canada that Thelma took the IELTS, the last step in the NNAS process. Unfortunately, she failed. “I didn’t understand the exam. I decided to prepare better and took it for the second time in September 2012. This time, I passed,” says Thelma.
After the NNAS assessment was completed, Thelma received an advisory report. A short time later, she started the application process with the Saskatchewan Registered Nursing Association (SRNA).
The advisory report indicated that to receive a license to practice in Canada, Thelma needed to take 13 courses and complete additional clinical hours. All of which were very expensive.
Thelma enrolled in the Orientation to Nursing in Canada for Internationally Educated Nurses (ONCIEN) program at the Saskatchewan Polytechnic, and in early 2013, she started her first course. “The program was online. It was to be completed at your own pace within five years. It was ideal for me because I had a newborn baby. My first son,” notes Thelma.
Realizing it would take a lot of time and money to complete 13 courses, later that year, Thelma applied to the Saskatchewan Association for Licensed Practical Nurses (SALPN) to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). The good news was that she only needed to take two courses and one clinical placement at the Sask Polytech.
“I wasn’t focused on my registered nursing courses as I should have. My priority was to become a practical nurse. I figured that the license was faster to get, and I could earn good money,” adds Thelma.
Before receiving her LPN license, Thelma knew it was time to resume the courses to become an RN. Since she needed financial support, Thelma applied for a Windmill Microlending loan. Her husband had already received one, and she knew how important it would be to help her advance in her career.
“I got the loan, and that helped with my education because my courses and exams were expensive. We were paying for his master’s program tuition on top of rent and other bills, so not much was left to pay for all of my expensive courses,” recalls Thelma.
In June 2014, Thelma received her LPN license, and in September 2014, she landed her first job.
The Windmill loan helped Thelma pay for most of the 13 courses, the clinicals and the NCLEX-RN exam from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN).
The following year, Thelma and her family moved to Thunder Bay, Ontario. After finishing the program and passing the NCLEX-RN exam in August 2016, she applied to the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO), submitted the required documentation and completed a jurisprudence exam.
After a couple of months, Thelma became a CNO member and got a job as an RN working in the psychiatry department in January 2017.
Since then, Thelma’s family has grown with the arrival of her second son. She has held a couple of different jobs as an RN, working full-time hours while also ensuring her schedule allowed her to spend time with her two sons.
Today, Thelma lives with her family in Barrie, Ontario. In April 2020, she landed her dream job as an RN working in the psychiatric department at a hospital in Barrie. Her goal is to accumulate more hours to qualify for a certification exam to become a licensed psychiatric nurse. In the future, Thelma and her husband want to open a practice.
Thelma’s journey to becoming a registered nurse in Canada helped her turn into a bold professional. “The courses and the training shaped me as a nurse and as a person. After graduating as an RN in 2016, I started helping other internationally-educated nurses achieve their goals. In 2019, I became a Windmill mentor. We have the knowledge, but we don’t have the boldness that it takes to challenge what we see and to question what else could be wrong with the patient. So, the process in Canada helps to build the complexity that we need as nurses. It is absolutely worth the effort,” states Thelma.