I was born and raised in the Philippines. After pursuing my Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy, I relocated to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where I worked as a physiotherapist for many years. I learned about immigration opportunities in Canada from my aunt who was living in the United States. As a physiotherapist, she said I would qualify as a “skilled immigrant” and that Canada was a great place to raise a family.
I was intrigued by this suggestion, but also hesitant as I had established my career in Riyadh. However, I kept thinking about my two year old son’s future and all the opportunities I wanted for him. So my husband and I moved forward with the immigration process and came to Canada in September 2011. Once we had arrived in Ontario, I needed to find a way to pay the bills while my credentials were being reviewed by the Canadian Alliance of Physiotherapy Regulators (CAPR).
I was hoping to find work as a Physiotherapy Assistant or Rehab Assistant. Unfortunately, this was harder than I had expected and I struggled to find any kind of work; even applying as a volunteer in clinics or hospitals was difficult. I found that without Canadian-based connections and work experience, getting any job was a challenge. Luckily, my husband and I found factory jobs through a friend we met. Our jobs were only part-time; travelling almost 2 hours to get to the factory while working 12-hour days. It was simply survival at that point.
In September 2012, our daughter was born. This was very exciting, but also stressful and overwhelming. In addition, I was struggling to pass my English language testing and greatly missed working as a physiotherapist. A year after submitting my paperwork to the CAPR, I was finally deemed eligible to write the Physiotherapy Competency Exam (PCE) in order to earn a license to practice in Ontario.
I felt intimidated by the exam. An acquaintance of mine, who was also a foreign-trained physiotherapist, suggested I apply to the bridging program at the University of Toronto to help me prepare for the PCE and gain experience working in the Canadian healthcare system. In April 2013, I entered the program.
Being in a class of Internationally Educated Physical Therapists (IEPTs), from all over the world was an amazing experience. Many of my classmates had Master’s Degrees or different specializations in physiotherapy, but we were all experiencing the same process of trying to become licensed to work in Ontario. My classmates became my friends and there was never a dull moment learning together.
The faculty were so supportive; I felt like I could contact them with any question and they were always happy to help me. At this point my son was 4 years old and my daughter was only 6 months. My husband was working nights and taking care of our children during the day so I could attend the program and prepare for the PCE. We were both exhausted, but I loved getting back to my passion. I don’t know what I would have done without my husband’s support.
I gained knowledge and skills in the bridging program that prepared me for both my written and practical examinations. The two internships helped me enhance my clinical skills and to understand how things operated in a Canadian hospital or clinic. Through my internships, I built a strong professional network with my colleagues, clinical instructors, and professional practice leaders. When I applied for a job, I asked one of my practice leaders to be my character reference. I attribute my success in obtaining employment to her reference.
I graduated from the bridging program in February 2014. By November of the same year, I had passed both the written and practical components of the PCE. I was finally able to apply for my license to practice physiotherapy in Ontario!
Soon after I received my license I started working part-time in private clinics. I secured my first in-hospital physiotherapist job at Providence Healthcare Hospital, where I had completed my second bridging program internship.
Today, I am working as a full-time, permanent Physiotherapist at the in-patient rehab department of Pembroke Regional Hospital. I am so grateful for all the support I received from my family and the bridging program throughout my journey.
I am back to doing the job I love and I am learning every day!