Looking for a few good health care professionals? Oh perfect! I know about 400, right here in the Ottawa area.

I’m not sure if that meets the need of the 19 hospitals in the Champlain region, and the Eastern Ontario Laboratory Association. As reported in the Ottawa Citizen last fall, this recently-formed coalition has started a major recruitment campaign on social media and a website. The idea is to attract health care workers from other parts of the country. And to do that, they are touting how good life is in Ottawa.

As Alex Munter, the CEO of the CHEO remarked, “we have gone from having shortages in a number of areas to looking everywhere for staff.”

This campaign is indeed needed. We do face a serious shortfall of health care workers. But did you know that Ottawa has hundreds of internationally-trained health professionals ready to contribute?

Ottawa attracts thousands of skilled professionals ever year. Many of these individuals have a background in health care. A smaller number of them find jobs in Ottawa’s health sector. Working in bio-tech, patient care, research and public health, they are making a difference.

For decades, the Catholic Centre for Immigrants has been supporting the career development of internationally trained health professionals. In the Ottawa region, we have professionals from more than 30 countries. More than 33 unique languages and cultures are represented. Many have experience working with the Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières and local community health organizations. Many have experience with international pharmaceutical companies, working in sales, pharmacovigilance, research and development.

They have dealt with emergency management and outbreaks of disease, often working with multidisciplinary teams and limited resources. Some have training and experience in Project Management, health care administration, IPAC training, in addition to clinical skills.

When Ottawa went into lockdown in March, many internationally trained health professionals responded to the call. As the province responds to the evolving situation, internationally trained health professionals continue to step up and fill emerging roles in long-term care, emergency relief, Infection Prevention and Control and COVID testing and contact tracing efforts.

Hiring internationally-trained health care workers does more than just fill vacant positions. It also increases the diversity of the staffs at our hospitals, clinics, labs, long-term care homes and more. This is important because as Ottawa increasingly becomes diverse, we need our health care institutions to reflect the community it serves.

There is much to gain from actively engaging internationally-trained health care workers. They have come to Canada to contribute. When they arrive, they are willing to integrate and looking for opportunities. Many do find jobs in the health care sector. But there is still a huge pool of untapped expertise.

Every day, we encourage our candidates to think outside the box. To look past their MD or RN designation and ask, “What can I contribute? How can I use my skills to contribute to the work of an organization?” We want to encourage employers to think outside the box as well. Consider ways internationally trained Canadians can contribute to your organization.

If the people behind this recruitment project take a closer look, they will find some of those positions can be filled with people already living in Ottawa. People who have already chosen to make Ottawa their home. People who have a vested interest in serving the Ottawa community because it is their community.

Michelle James is the former coordinator of the Career Transitions program at the Catholic Centre for Immigrants. The program helps internationally-trained health professionals find employment in Ottawa or transition their skills to new opportunities.