IAF the Right ‘Therapy’ for Internationally Trained Physiotherapist

Sudarshan BhandariPrior to arriving in Canada in August of 2014 under the Federal Skilled Work Program, physiotherapist Sudarshan Bhandari had practiced for three years in Nepal, earning his physiotherapy degree. After doing research on various communities in Canada, Sudarshan decided to establish his new life in Brampton, Ontario as he felt being in the Greater Toronto Area would give him the best quality of life. However, when he went to look for work, Sudarshan ran into trouble almost immediately. He knew that without his license he could not practice as a full physiotherapist, but he also soon discovered that his lack of Canadian experience made him uncompetitive in the labour market. After applying for numerous jobs online he realized that he simply wasn’t being taken seriously by employers. Furthermore, he knew that online applications had a low success rate because of how impersonal they were. It became clear to Sudarshan that in order to overcome these barriers, he would need a two-fold approach: securing his financial situation and pursuing licensure in Canada.

Sudarshan decided to visit clinics in person to see if there were any unposted positions that might make use of his experience despite his lack of license. He went to 10 different Physiotherapy clinics before one Clinic (Physiotouch Wellness and Rehab in Mississauga, Ontario) offered him the chance to volunteer with their licensed physiotherapists for a few hours each week. His efforts were further rewarded when several weeks later, a part-time Physiotherapy Assistant position became available.

During Sudarshan’s volunteer shifts, clinic staff were able to witness both his aptitude in physiotherapy as well as his kind and helpful nature when interacting with their patients. Confident he would be an asset to their team, the clinic offered Sudarshan the part-time position, which he gratefully accepted. Additionally, this role provided Sudarshan with an opportunity to strengthen his English fluency which he felt needed improvement. Physiotherapy is a profession where strong communication skills are essential due to the instructional nature of the work, and this role allowed him to improve his English with the support of both his colleagues and patients.

Sudarshan, taking advantage of Brampton’s strong economy, was able to supplement his part-time income with a warehouse job. With his financial situation more secure, and a role that was utilizing at least some of his skill set, Sudarshan was then able to focus on his long-term goal of becoming a fully licensed physiotherapist in Canada.

Sudarshan knew, based on his research, that the first step to licensure was having his education assessed by the Canadian Alliance of Physiotherapy Regulators. This is always a stressful process for new applicants because they have to collect documents from overseas and then wait on pins and needles to see if their education has been accepted as equivalent. To Sudarshan’s great relief, his education was assessed as being equal to that of a Canadian physiotherapy degree. The remaining steps in the process were a written exam, followed by a rigorous, six-hour clinical exam where he would have to demonstrate his knowledge of assessment and therapy on an actual patient.

Sudarshan was happy to be making progress but wasn’t certain how he’d be able to pay for either exam. His two jobs provided enough income for him to pay his bills, but not much more. Sudarshan was fortunate enough to have a few friends from Nepal living in Canada, including a fellow physiotherapist who lived in Calgary. Sudarshan decided to call him for advice. As they got talking, his friend told him about IAF. His friend had been a client of IAF, using his loan to complete his own professional licensing exams. On the advice of his friend, Sudarshan approached IAF in June of 2015. After discussing his situation with an intake representative, he decided IAF was a good fit. He applied and after a brief evaluation period, received his loan.

With his IAF loan, Sudarshan was able to focus his mental energy on studying for the exams rather than worrying about how to pay for them. As a result, Sudarshan passed both his exams on the first go, in September 2015 and June 2016 respectively. In August 2016 he received his license and accepted his first job as a licensed physiotherapist in Canada at a long term care facility. Sudarshan worked there for two years before joining a private clinic where he works today.

“I was having some financial difficulties due to working variable hours in low paying jobs,” Sudarshan says. “It was causing me stress and preventing me from saving the money I needed to write my licensing exams. When IAF helped me pay for those exams and study materials, it was really helpful and it got me back on track so I could complete my licensing process.”

Every year, IAF helps hundreds of immigrants by providing loans to help them pay for the licensing or training they need to work in their field in Canada. Now more than ever Canada’s newcomers need our help. Please consider a donation to IAF today.