Mar 04, 2024


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Shannon van Leenen, MA

Senior Media Relations Specialist

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National Healthcare Language Program Launch

News release courtesy Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS)

Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), World Skills Employment Centre and Catholic Centre for Immigrants (CCI), Bow Valley College and Immigrant Services Society of BC (ISSofBC) will launch the National Healthcare Language Program (NHLP) in March.

This new program is specially designed for internationally educated healthcare professionals across Canada. NHLP will help internationally educated medical graduates, pharmacists, dentists, and nurses to develop the communication competencies they need to succeed in their fields.

“I think the program is thoughtfully and carefully designed to help participants employ effective strategies for patient-centered care,” said Sarah Sampara, National Project Lead at ISANS. “These strategies supersede one's primary language and when utilized effectively, help healthcare professionals build meaningful relationships with their patients, which results in more holistic care.”

ISANS has offered this program for several years, and due to its impact, benefits, and recognition, it is now being launched nationwide. “I just want to take a moment to thank you for your great effort and amazing teaching skills,” said an ISANS client. “I didn't realize how much I learned from you until yesterday, where [when] I had to simulate an interaction with a patient in front of other doctors. I can say confidently that I aced it, and all the credits go to ISANS and you [teacher]. You are helping us to be the best version of ourselves.

The courses are offered entirely online to ensure newcomers can access these programs with minimal wait times, regardless of where they are in Canada. As the project leader, ISANS will receive all the applications nationwide and assign individuals according to their locations.

“The blended approach of online content delivery and face-to-face sessions ensures flexibility while providing the necessary level of engagement and practice,” said Peggy Kelly, Manager, Workplace Language Training at World Skills Employment Centre. “The emphasis on empathy, respect, and professionalism in patient interactions reflects the holistic approach to healthcare communication.”

Regarding the needs of the different healthcare fields, two courses have been developed to help newcomers practice specific language skills to help them engage in everyday healthcare interactions successfully and confidently. The content of both courses focuses on patient interactions and includes other profession-specific tasks as needed.

“The program's objective is to assist internationally educated healthcare professionals by enhancing their ability to communicate with patients effectively,” said Hana Taleb Imai, Dean at Bow Valley College. “This includes examining intercultural competency and language usage to reduce barriers.”

The Communication for Nurses course helps internationally educated nurses develop and improve the communication skills they need to successfully complete complex, language-based nursing tasks in Canada and pass the Canadian English Language Benchmark Assessment for Nurses (CELBAN).

This course has four separate units focusing on specific language skills – listening and speaking for 16 weeks each and writing and reading for 10 weeks each. The course varies in length, depending on how many units the nurses take at a time. All units are offered regularly, so there will be multiple opportunities to take them. All units have an instructor to answer targeted questions.

The Communication Strategies for Patient Interactions course helps internationally educated medical graduates (IMGs), pharmacy graduates (IPGs), and dentists (IEDs) pass the licensure exams for the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) and develop and enhance the communications skills they need to interact with patients empathetically, respectfully, and professionally.

This nine-week-long course, offered regularly, will help newcomers to actively listen to patient concerns and history, communicate with patients empathetically, respectfully, and professionally, and improve communication skills and confidence to help them pass the OSCEs.

At the end of the Communication Strategies for Patient Interactions course, applicants will participate in a patient simulation session, receiving feedback on what they did well and how to improve their communication skills to better prepare for the OSCEs.

At the end of every skill-specific unit, applicants will receive the related skill-specific assessment to provide them with updated Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) scores.

To take either course, newcomers will need to be a permanent resident (in progress or completed) or individuals with a CUAET visa, an international medical graduate (IMG), an internationally educated pharmacist (IPG), an internationally educated dentist (IED), or an internationally educated nurse (IEN) intending to work in their field in Canada. They will also need a desktop computer, laptop, or tablet with internet access, headphones, a microphone, and suitable high-speed internet. 

To learn more about the National Healthcare Language Program, visit


About Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS)

With over 40 years of experience, ISANS is the leading immigrant settlement service agency in Atlantic Canada, serving 15,000+ clients annually from over 200 countries in communities across the province. ISANS helps immigrants build a future in Nova Scotia.

We bring varied languages, diverse experiences, and unique perspectives that inform our client-centered programming. We seek to empower our clients and staff to collaborate and to learn and grow together—both personally and professionally—through partnership, professionalism, and accountability.

As the front door to many of Nova Scotia’s immigrants, our goal is to create a community where all can belong and grow, building a stronger Nova Scotia and Canada for all.

About Immigrant Services Society of BC (ISSofBC)

Since 1968, Immigrant Services Society of BC has worked to provide a welcoming and empowering environment for all newcomers to British Columbia. The services support settlement and English language needs, as well as employment and career ambitions. ISSBC is driven by core values and principles that put inclusivity, compassion, and innovation at the centre of ISS of BC work.

As a division of ISSofBC, ISS Language and Career College of BC (LCC) offers English Language classes, Occupation-Specific Language Training, English assessments, Skills Training Co-op programs, and a TESOL Diploma program.  Our students include immigrants, refugees, naturalized citizens, and international students. LCC has been designated with the Private Training Institutions Branch (PTIB) and accredited by Languages Canada for about two decades. This has allowed us to receive an EQA (Education Quality Assurance) designation from the Province of BC and be included on the IRCC Designated Learning Institutions list since 2010.  

About World Skills Employment Centre & Catholic Centre for Immigrants (CCI)

World Skills has been a leader in enhancing newcomers’ economic integration into the Canadian economy for over 25 years. Founded by Local Agencies Serving Immigrants, a coalition of settlement agencies in Ottawa, World Skills is a non-profit employment centre dedicated exclusively to the employment needs of newcomers and to the needs of the local labour market.

World Skills helps newcomers incorporate into the workforce through employment competency building, job search training and support, cultural competency building and workplace language training. It connects talented newcomers to employers in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. World Skills partners with employers to help them meet their labour market needs by understanding their business requirements, finding and pre-screening internationally trained newcomers and offering cross-cultural training.

CCI has been welcoming newcomers to Ottawa since 1954. The organization helps refugees and immigrants settle and adapt to their new lives in Ottawa. CCI wants them to feel at home and safe. It provides programs and services to all newcomers regardless of race, national or ethnic origin, religion, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, mental or physical ability. It offers many employment programs, including Career Transitions. For 20 years, Career Transitions has delivered employment services to internationally educated health professionals who face challenges participating in the health care sector in Ontario. The program helps them overcome those challenges, adapt to the Canadian work culture or prepare to transition to a new career in the health sector.

About Bow Valley College 

Calgary and region’s largest college — with 15,000 full- and part-time students, Bow Valley College helps open doors and minds to in-demand jobs in Calgary, Alberta, and Canada. Our graduates contribute to the digital economy, careers in business, TV & film production, and serve on the frontlines of healthcare and social services. Bow Valley College invests in three applied research pillars: educational technology, social innovation, and health.


Additional quotes:

“We expect the program will help internationally educated healthcare professionals gain access to their field or improve their communication skills within their current working environment. Internationally educated healthcare professionals bring unique knowledge and skills to the healthcare profession. By supporting their communicative competence, we will help them demonstrate their unique benefit to their field even more clearly.” Sarah Sampara, National Project Lead at ISANS.

“We are confident that this program will improve the communication skills of internationally educated healthcare professionals and will be the much-needed support most of them are expecting to find when they choose Canada as their new home. The program will help those who want to achieve their career goals as a healthcare provider in Canada and contribute to their future success.” Arina Tanase, Senior Manager ISS Language and Carrer College of BC.

“The objective is to empower participants to demonstrate their knowledge and skills by providing strategies and tools to enhance their communication proficiencies. By strengthening their communication competencies, participants will be better equipped to engage and be active members of their community and the larger healthcare sector.” Peggy Kelly, Manager, Workplace Language Training at World Skills Employment Centre.

“We anticipate this program will be a valuable resource for internationally educated healthcare professionals. We expect that the program will address specific linguistic and cultural challenges that these professionals may encounter in jobs in the healthcare profession. The heightened communicative competence that this program will bring to participants will allow them to make meaningful contributions to the healthcare community in Canada.” Danica MacDonald, Program Chair at Bow Valley College.

“I could say that this course exceeded my expectations. Although there are many similarities between (my country) and Canada, there are a lot of different aspects which are really important to know in order to have a better performance at work, mainly due to the different cultures that may meet in a same place. I learned the difference that makes to build rapport with both patients and co-workers. Also, this course gave me interesting tips, tools and ways to develop my professional and personal skills.”  Other ISANS’ client.

Media Contact:
Olivia Malley
ISANS Public Relations Coordinator
(902) 406 5069


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