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Internationally Educated Nurses at Watson Lake Community Hospital

Internationally Educated Nurses at Watson Lake Community Hospital

Recently, the Watson Lake Community Hospital welcomed two new Internationally Educated Nurses nurses to their staff, Cherry Mendoza and Giancarlo Diaz. The husband and wife duo both trained and worked as nurses in the Philippines, their home country, and as well, Mendoza worked abroad in Saudi Arabia for several years. Today they live in Watson Lake with their two young children and extended family.

It’s been a long journey for the two to become nurses in Canada and a process that the Yukon Hospital Corporation was pleased to support.

In 2014, Diaz immigrated to Watson Lake to work in the hospitality industry, although it was his “ultimate goal to become a nurse” in the Yukon, he says. He worked various jobs over the years, including several at the hospital in the Environmental Services division.

Mendoza worked as a nurse in the Philippines from 2011 to 2016, then took a position as an international nurse in Saudi Arabia from 2016 to 2019. Her time in Saudi Arabia was educational, she says. “I learned a lot and it was a really good experience, but it was also exhausting being so far away from my family. Afterwards, I needed a break [from nursing].”

She joined Diaz in Watson Lake in 2019 and began working as an early childhood educator. As their family began to grow, Diaz and Mendoza gave more thought to getting back into nursing and navigating the process to becoming registered in Canada.

“Nursing is a good paying job — it’s a way to better support our family. Although we were registered in the Philippines, we needed to become registered in Canada,” explains Diaz. They began to research the process to become nurses in Canada. First, they began to study in preparation to take the NCLEX, the Canadian RN Exam.

In the spring of 2023, Yukon Hospitals learned that Diaz and Mendoza were applying for their nursing license, and worked to help support the process for them to become nurses in Watson Lake. In addition to passing the NCLEX, internationally educated nurses have to pass an English proficiency exam, register for licensing in a Canadian province (the Yukon currently does not have a College of Nursing), and as well, seek licensing through the Yukon Registered Nursing Association. “The hospital was very helpful,” says Diaz. “I’m so glad we took this job offer.”

Staff at the Watson Lake Community Hospital welcomed Diaz and Mendoza into their role as Registered Nurses last December, although Diaz laughs that some couldn’t believe he’d already worked three different jobs at the hospital over the years.

Mendoza says that the staff have been more than welcoming and supportive. “All of the nurses, the admission and discharge staff, even the custodians, they’re all really helpful,” she says. “They’re really accommodating us and supporting our learning needs.”

But it was her first bedside experience, providing care and support to a patient, that really reminded Mendoza of why she got into nursing in the first place.

“It brought me back into what I love about nursing. I thought I wasn’t going back into the profession because I was burnt out,” explains Mendoza. “But being by the bedside, it brought back all the memories and skills I’d acquired as a nurse and I thought, ‘oh yes, this is me. This is actually me.’”

Returning to nursing after many years away has been challenging, says Diaz, but the senior nurses at Watson Lake Community Hospital have helped support the transition. He’s pleased to be back working in his professional scope as a nurse, a job that can be exceedingly challenging, but also rewarding.

“When you’re working as a nurse, it’s not everyday that you will save lives, but every day you always get the opportunity to be kind to people,” says Diaz. “Sometimes people just need someone to talk to, or minor support, and being kind is what brings harmony. That’s my main principle as a nurse.”

Mendoza reflects on the incredible care she, herself, received when she was at the Maternity Ward at Whitehorse General Hospital, when she gave birth to her daughter. She remembers the exemplary patient-care she received from a nurse.

“She really made me feel like a queen,” she says. “It made me proud to be a nurse.”

Today Diaz and Mendoza are raising their two young children in Watson Lake. As Mendoza grew up in a rural community in the Philippines, she loves the quiet and peaceful nature of Watson Lake. Diaz agrees.

“You can go fishing whenever you want, it’s just a couple of minutes walk, or you can go boating,” he says. “The people are really friendly. I see a lot of potential here in Watson Lake.”

Welcome to the Yukon Hospitals team, Giancarlo and Cherry!