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Canadian employers, who often do not know how to assess education and work experience from other countries, may require or prefer you to have experience working in Canada. Lack of local market experience can pose a challenge for newcomers, but there are ways to overcome some of these challenges.When an employer tells you that you have no “Canadian experience” often they mean that they’re not sure if you’re going to fit into their workplace. They are not sure that you are familiar with Canadian codes and standards of practice or that you have the communication skills, etiquette or inter-personal savvy to be an asset to their firm.

Employers want friendly, assertive professionals with above average communication skills who will fit right in and over time become leaders.

You can overcome this barrier and acquire a good understanding of how a Canadian workplace operates by volunteering, meeting people, having a mentor, getting an internship or job shadowing.

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Volunteerism is an important part of Canadian society and lifestyle. It helps you settle in faster and make friends and even it might lead you to a job at the organization where you are volunteering or somewhere else. As well, by volunteering your nursing experience, you’ll be paying it forward in more ways than one. You may be gaining extra hands-on training or the pleasure of networking in the medical field, and also help provide health care and comfort to those most in need.

Look for volunteer opportunities in healthcare-related sectors, such as hospitals, long-term care facilities, community and social centres and other charities in your community. Organizations such as the Canadian Red Cross or Nurses Christian Fellowship (NCF) – Canada always need volunteers throughout the year.

You can find a list of volunteer opportunities on the Canadian Nurses Association website.

Click here to learn more about the benefits of volunteering.


Another good way to acquire Canadian experience is by having internships. Career Edge is an innovative internship program that allows you to apply for paid internships at Canada’s leading private, public or non-profit sector employers. The program regularly posts internship opportunities and offers paid internships of four, six, nine or 12 months for recent immigrants:

  • with fluency in English
  • with at least a Bachelor’s level education
  • with a minimum of three years international work experience

The program is run by Career Edge, a not-for-profit social enterprise that has managed over 9,200 paid internships across Canada since 1996.


Mentoring is defined as a voluntary, mutually beneficial and long-term relationship where an experienced and knowledgeable leader supports the maturation of a less experienced nurse. Benefits to Internationally Educated Nurses include: increased self-esteem and confidence, exposure to new areas of nursing, a deepened understanding of the nursing workplace culture/scope/practice in Canada, and an opportunity to ask questions in a supportive environment as they prepare for a successful Canadian nursing career.

In Ontario, the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario promotes an 80/20 model of employment, whereby nurses 55 and over, in all sectors spend 20 per cent of their time on professional development or activities, especially mentoring new colleagues.

In Manitoba (Winnipeg), the Internationally Educated Nurses Workplace Partnership Program (IENWPP) matches Internationally Educated Nurses with Canadian Registered Nurses for support and voluntary mentorship, as one component of the Bridging Program for Internationally Educated Nurses at Red River College. The program runs two times per year, in January and May, and requires 5 hours of commitment over a 5-week period, plus a 90-minute orientation meeting.  In addition, RNs are encouraged to arrange a job shadowing opportunity at the RN’s place of work where possible (based on the RN’s employer).

As well, many immigrant-serving agencies have mentorship programs where they team up a newcomer with someone in their professional field.

The Mentoring Partnership brings together recent skilled immigrants and established professionals in occupation-specific mentoring relationships. The program is managed by the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council.

You can also look for mentoring opportunities online, by registering for sites such as MentorCity.

Two people job shadowing Video: How can newcomers benefit from mentoring? Watch the interview here.

Job shadowing

Not exactly a mentorship or a volunteer opportunity, job shadowing is an interesting way to get some inside information on your industry in Canada, know about how the Canadian workplace operates and possibly make some good networking contacts.

As in volunteering, identify 5-10 hospitals and other healthcare centres you wish to work for and try to use your network to approach RNs who work at these organizations. Approach them, explain that you are a newcomer and ask them if it’s possible to job shadow them for some time to get familiar with the local work culture.

For general information on job shadowing, click here.