A Bridge to Practice
When internationally educated physical therapists (IEPTs) come to Canada, the road to becoming licensed can be complex and overwhelming. The Ontario Internationally Educated Physical Therapy Bridging (OIEPB) program, hosted by the University of Toronto's Department of Physical Therapy, helps IEPTs navigate the system, prepare for their licensing exams, and gain experience working in the Canadian healthcare system. Writer Alyson Musial sat down with 2014 OIEPB alumna Tathiana Santana Shiguemoto to learn about her journey to becoming a licensed physiotherapist in Canada.
What brought you to Canada?
I grew up in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In 2011 my husband was transferred from his job in Sao Paulo to Toronto. It was a temporary transfer at first; we viewed it as an opportunity to gain some experience abroad. I was excited to learn English! When my husband was offered a permanent position, we decided we love Canada and wanted to stay. My next step was to figure out how to become a licensed physiotherapist in Ontario.
Tell us about some of the challenges you faced.
I really loved my career in Sao Paulo. My focus was cardiorespiratory rehabilitation and pediatrics. I was also involved in cardiorespiratory rehabilitation research, and had published books on the topic. It was hard to think of re-starting a career I had already established in Brazil. Earning a license to practice in Canada is a complex process, and I was still learning English! I also struggled with leaving my family and friends back home. Starting over was very exciting, but there were so many new things…it was very overwhelming!
What was your experience with the OIEPB program?
The bridging program was so important for me. At the time, my English was poor and I was very shy. It helped me prepare for my Physiotherapy Competency Exam (PCE), which you must pass to be able to practice in Canada. The bridging program also involves two one-month placements, which gave me work experience in the Canadian healthcare system. I completed placements at Toronto Western Hospital and St. Johns Rehab Hospital. I found these placements very challenging, but I had the support of the bridging program and my classmates. The professors and clinical instructors were really there for me. Afterwards, they even helped me prepare my resume and interview skills. I could not have accomplished all this on my own.
What have you done since graduating from the OIEPB program?
Thanks to the preparation and support from the bridging program, I passed both my written and clinical PCE in 2014. I was so stressed and worried about passing. When I found out I did, I slept for a week before even celebrating—I was exhausted from studying, but so happy!
After taking a short break, I got a job at Mount Sinai Hospital as a physiotherapist in the geriatric and cardiology department, specializing in acute care. I love my job and find it really rewarding! Right now I only work on weekends, because I am pursing my Master's in Physical Therapy at U of T. I am in the Advanced Standing Option program, which is for candidates who have completed a Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy and are already practicing as a physiotherapist in Canada. I will graduate in 2017, and have a Canadian Master's in Physical Therapy, which is so exciting!
What advice would you give to other IEPTs?
When I left Brazil, my heart was so broken to leave the work that I loved. The process of becoming licensed to practice in Canada takes a lot of hard work, study and dedication, but also support from family and programs like the OIEPB. It took a long time, but I am finally able to practice and research as a physiotherapist in Canada. I think as IEPTs we bring a unique perspective to Canadian healthcare, and we are needed more and more as our population ages.
If you love being a physiotherapist like I do, believe in yourself. It is possible!
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