TRIEC > Uncategorized > Integration is a two-way street at St. Michael’s Hospital

Healthcare provider invests in education for internationally educated professionals, managers and staff mentors


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When you work for a Canadian company day-after-day, sometimes it’s hard to distinguish the elements of the organization’s corporate culture.

“The integration workshop helped me better define and articulate the hospital’s workplace culture,” says Carol Flewelling, Telemedicine Project Manager at St. Michael’s Hospital. “The facilitator highlighted some general cultural traits about Canadian workplaces. I certainly appreciated that some of the cultural nuances in the Canadian workplace may be true, but I also realized that the hospital setting is quite different. Those working in healthcare have different responsibilities in that we need to demonstrate compassion and warmth.”

If Canadian-born employees struggle with the nuances of their own diverse workplace corporate culture, then it must be that much more challenging for internationally educated professionals (IEPs) to decipher the differences between the generalizations of Canadian corporate culture and what’s unique for each employer.

Results of a survey show that some immigrant employees experience challenges around communication, conflict resolution, and team work. The hospital realized there are opportunities to enhance the integration of IEPs.


The program

In 2009, St. Michael’s Hospital began a two-year pilot project. Previously funded by the Government of Ontario, and Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the bridging program aimed to enhance the integration, transition, and retention of IEPs.

What’s different about St. Michael’s Hospital is that not only have they developed training for newcomer employees, but for managers and staff mentors as well. “We believe this program was innovative,” says Kate Wilson, Manager Corporate Staffing Strategies at St. Michael’s Hospital. “Not only were IEPs guided to integrate, but we provided tools and resources that managers and other staff need to support that transition for IEPs. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Specifically, the project focused on developing and implementing:

  • An orientation and transition program targeting IEPs during their first three years of employment
  • Workshops for managers and mentors to increase their knowledge regarding IEPs opportunities, experiences, and challenges
  • A corporate IEP Workforce Plan and Balanced Scorecard for evaluation and continuous improvement
  • A communication toolkit to promote the recruitment and retention of IEPs at St. Michael’s, and to share experiences with external colleagues in the health system and other sectors


The impact

For Carlos Fernando, an IEP from the Philippines, the program provided the more in-depth orientation he was looking for. “St. Michael’s Hospital is a huge place with lots of diversity on staff,” says Carlos, Research Coordinator, Cardiology Research. “Learning the cultural backgrounds of my colleagues is important to me. I know it will help with teamwork and communication, and I want to do well here.” While attending the workshops, Carlos was also assigned a mentor, with whom he met once a week. “It’s very useful to know I can approach a colleague outside my department with any question I might have,” says Carlos.

The positive feedback from Carlos and Carol mirror the rave reviews from other program participants. For example, 96 per cent of IEPs believed that the program had a positive impact on their professional development and 86 per cent believed that the program helped them integration into the organization. For the IEPs’ managers, 100 per cent thought the program met their expectations for obtaining supports and resources to assist IEPs, and all of the managers will recommend IEPs take the program.


What’s next?

While the pilot may be over, the potential is enormous. “We want to use what we’ve developed as a foundation for the future,” says Kate. “We want to adapt the traditional instructor-led-curriculum into self-directed learning, online videos, and/or e-learning modules. These efforts will help IEPs who work different shifts or have professional/personal responsibilities that might prevent their attendance at formal workshops.”

Carol wants the lessons to be taken to other managers across the hospital and hopes they will consider future training opportunities. “I applied these learnings right away and would suggest that all managers have something to gain, says Carol, “I work on a small team, so I know cultural understanding can only be that much more essential to effective and respectful relationships in a larger team or department.”

The next step is to grow the program from a pilot to a certificate program – and with the speed of innovation at St. Michael’s Hospital – it shouldn’t take long.

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Read the St. Mike’s story of success Thinking outside the box when it comes to immigrants: St. Michael’s Hospital does it again.