Montfort, a leader in developing a bilingual healthcare workforce

Ottawa, September 8, 2022 – Montfort, Ontario's Francophone academic hospital, continues to innovate in training the next generation of Francophone healthcare professionals. The hospital will now welcome a few staff members who speak French or English and who are willing and eager to learn the other official language in order to provide care and services in both languages. This language immersion initiative for healthcare professionals is unique in it's kind.

In addition to language training, staff members in immersion will have coaching and support from colleagues who speak both languages to ensure continuity of service in both official languages at all times and in all sectors.

"As a francophone academic hospital, we are an ideal setting for an innovative initiative like healthcare professional immersion," said Dr. Bernard Leduc, President and CEO of Montfort. "This is one more way we can fulfill our provincial mandate and train the next generation of healthcare professionals in French.

"This program is also part of the solution to the labour shortage," added Dr. Leduc. "We have access to a much larger pool of potential candidates than before. The integration of staff members in immersion allows us to ensure continuity of care while meeting the needs of our clientele, whose demographics are changing."

"This is a groundbreaking initiative: to our knowledge, Montfort is the first academic hospital to offer a French immersion program to train bilingual staff," said Carl Nappert, Chair of the hospital's Board of Trustees.

This announcement coincides with the Government of Canada's Official Languages Day. "What a great way to celebrate this day, and to contribute to the vitality of our language!"

When does the program start?

Two people will be joining the Montfort team, starting September 12.

Are we hiring staff who speak only French or English? Only one other language?

Yes, we are now hiring people who currently speak French or English, and who are willing and eager to learn the other official language to comply with our language policy and the requirements of their positions. As a francophone academic hospital serving a bilingual population, Montfort is an immersion environment of choice. This initiative will allow us to train more healthcare professionals capable of providing healthcare services in French.

What do you mean by "immersion"?

"Language immersion involves immersing a learner in an environment where the language spoken is not their own so that they can quickly and effectively acquire that new language." (Frech, 2017. Free translation)

More concretely at Montfort, this means that we will welcome and integrate into our teams staff members who wish to perfect their second language, by offering them the opportunity to evolve in a francophone academic hospital environment. This will allow us, on the one hand, to fill more positions by having access to a larger pool of potential candidates, but more importantly, to train even more healthcare professionals in French.

What is being done to encourage learning the language? How do we support these people in their learning?

In addition to offering an excellent immersion environment, as a francophone academic hospital, we will ensure that staff members in immersion are supported, supervised and encouraged in their learning.

Notably:

  • These individuals will be required to demonstrate that they are enrolled in language courses;
  • A colleague will be assigned to them on a buddy system basis;
  • the professional practice will offer support, namely through the presence of clinical educators;
  • the teams that will welcome staff members in immersion will be actively involved in the welcoming and integration process and will be made aware of the best practices in this regard;

all to ensure an exceptional experience for all, with you and for you.

Will these individuals provide direct patient care? If so, will the patient caseload be tailored to the language? How do you expect to meet this commitment?

Yes, staff members in immersion will be providing direct patient care. The patient load will be distributed according to language whenever possible. Each sector will be able to determine how best to do this. We continue to provide care in both official languages and will ensure that staff members who speak both languages are present to interact with our clientele at all times and in all areas. 

The integration of staff members in immersion also allows us to ensure continuity of care while meeting the needs of our clientele, whose demographics are changing. Nearly 60% of our patients are now English-speaking, which is a commensurate representation of the demographics of the region. 

How long will the person have to learn the other language?

Our language policy states that staff members have 3 years to comply with the language requirements of their positions.

How will you evaluate the person's level of bilingualism?

Language tests will be conducted by an outside firm.

Is the language of work at Montfort still French?

Yes, the work language at Montfort remains French. Our colleagues in immersion are here with the objective of perfecting their languages. We count on the respect of all and the mutual support of our teams to facilitate the integration of these persons at Montfort.

How many people in immersion have you hired so far? Is there a limit / maximum ratio?

As of September 2022, there are 7 employees in immersion at Montfort, who are in the process of complying with our language policy. There is also one physician in the same situation.

We will monitor the situation closely to determine if a maximum ratio is required based on the success of the initiative.

Immersion staff members will always be supervised and accompanied by colleagues who can speak both languages, in order to ensure the continuity of our service offer in French and English.

It is important to remember that the objective is also for our immersion colleagues to learn the language and to be able to fully integrate into their work environment. Ultimately, all of our staff members must comply with the language requirements of their position.

All hospitals have difficulty recruiting, why do you think this will improve the situation at Montfort?

We have access to a considerable pool of potential candidates who may want to come and work in a French environment, but were not considered before because they did not meet the language requirements upon hiring.

Now, we will be able to recruit qualified personnel from a pool that will no longer be limited by these factors, while requiring these individuals to integrate into their immersion work environment and comply with our language policy in a timely manner.

Will patients still be able to receive care in French at Montfort, at every interaction?

We will continue to provide care in both official languages and will ensure that staff members who speak both languages are present to interact with our clientele at all times and in all areas. People in immersion will be paired with a mentor ("buddy system"). The sectors that welcome people in immersion will sponsor them and offer them sustained support to ensure their successful integration.

Will we still make an active offer of services in French?

Yes, all staff members continue to make the active offer of services in French, which begins with "Bonjour, Hello".

If necessary, an employee in immersion may be supported by another staff member.

Will people in immersion be identified? Will they wear a button, for example?

Yes, immersion staff will wear a button identifying them; this will also encourage colleagues, patients and their loved ones to be supportive in the person’s learning journey.

Who do I contact if I know of candidates who would be interested in participating in the immersion program at Montfort?

Interested individuals can simply apply for a position that interests them. However, we are not going to open the doors wide just yet; we want to do well with these first two participants and, if necessary, make adjustments to make the program a success before expanding it more broadly.

How will you ensure the safety of patient care?

The individuals recruited to participate in the immersion program are already qualified healthcare professionals and will have the support of their mentor at the beginning of the immersion.

About Montfort

Hôpital Montfort is Ontario’s Francophone Academic Hospital, offering exemplary person-centred care. The hospital serves over 1.2 million people in Eastern Ontario, in both official languages. In 2018, it earned Accreditation with Exemplary Standing from Accreditation Canada, and is the first francophone host as the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario's flagship Best Practice Spotlight Organization (BPSO).

With its main partners, the University of Ottawa and La Cité college, as well as other post-secondary programs, Montfort is preparing the next generation of Francophone healthcare professionals. Since 2015, it has joined the ranks of Canada’s top 40 research hospitals through the activities of the Institut du Savoir Montfort, its knowledge institute. Montfort strives to become "your hospital of reference for outstanding services, designed with you and for you". In 2019, it was named one of the world’s top 1000 hospitals.

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