When Damilola Iduye moved to Canada in 2012, she found the country wasn’t what she thought—at least in terms of professional recertification.
“Based on how I would say Canada is being advertised to people from other countries, it is just come here; we need nurses. So, I had that mentality at that time,” says Iduye. “I thought I should just apply for my nursing registration, which I started when living in Nigeria in 2011, and I just thought it would be easy.”
It wasn’t easy. In fact, it would take more almost four years years before she would work as a registered nurse again.
“I didn’t want to be a nurse initially, I wanted to study medicine. But when I got into it, I fell in love with it and now that thing was being taken away from me,” she says. “Everything was becoming so depressing; I cried many nights.”
Iduye, who now lives in Truro, worked as a nurse in Nigeria from 2004 to 2012 after receiving a Diploma of Nursing from the Oyo State School of Nursing and Bachelor of Nursing from the University of Ibadan, both in Nigeria. In 2011, she decided to join her husband in Canada. As the family planned to move to Ontario, she applied to the College of Nurses in that province.
After applying, she didn’t hear anything for 10 months. It was only after further investigation that she found out that one of her transcripts was missing, even though it had been signed for by someone at the school. By this time, she was already in Canada. Unlike many Canadian universities where transcripts are easily accessible or requestable online, it isn’t the same in Nigeria.
“I had to know someone who would help me and go to the registrar,” says Iduye. “I was at the mercy of begging friends and families and they were so supportive.”
Despite the help, she didn’t get the correct documents for six months.
“That was my first ‘aha’ moment,” she says, noting that by now it was 2013. “Am I really going to be a nurse in Canada?”
In the meantime, she and her family had decided to stay in Nova Scotia. Since transcripts and other documents were so hard to get, she opted to transfer once accredited in Ontario.
Still, she was worried about her prospects and looked around at other jobs in the healthcare field.
She discovered a continuing care assistant, or CCA, program for immigrant nurses offered online through a school in Manitoba. However, after completing the course, Iduye ran into another roadblock: the school wasn’t recognized in Nova Scotia.
“At that time, I knew that I was just so fed up that I needed to do something with the system; with things I noticed that weren’t right,” she says.
She contacted the school in Manitoba and requested her money back. Recognizing the error, the school completed the Nova Scotia accreditation process so that Iduye and others in in Nova Scotia who took the program could work.
But there were still problems. Living in Truro, she found jobs were scarce there due to a “rural effect,” and was told to try her luck in Halifax. She didn’t want to move as her husband had a full-time job in town.
At this point, Iduye was stuck. She had been in Canada for about two years without working. Each time she got ahead, she was hit with another barrier.
Finally, the Ontario school contacted her to say the accreditation process for immigrant nurses had changed and she had to take a clinical exam, which she did in October 2013.
But after this three-year process, Iduye’s mindset had shifted. She didn’t want to put “all her eggs in one basket,” and started a Master of Nursing degree at Dalhousie University.
“I think the master’s is was what opened the door because I wanted to give up many times. But I knew if I could just get more education, I’d be better prepared.”
She also changed her reaccreditation plan. Once she received her grade from the Ontario exam, she would seek accreditation in Nova Scotia, so she “started afresh” and got all her paperwork in order.
However, she hit even more barriers. After applying to the Nova Scotia College of Nursing in May 2015, she was told she would need to take another exam, similar to the one taken in Ontario.
After talking to both schools, and being told her Ontario results couldn’t be released, she was able to get everything sorted.
“It was my breakthrough,” she says.
In August 2015, Iduye became a registered nurse in Nova Scotia, four years after she started the process and three years after arriving in Canada.
“I would say, after all of that, my life has just been like a miracle.”
Along with working part-time as a nurse at Colchester East Hants Health Centre and at a Shannex nursing home, Iduye is also a lecturer at Dalhousie’s School of Nursing, where she teaches Family Health Nursing, and in the Clinical Integration Simulation Lab.
Iduye says she is very determined and goal-oriented, but she owes her perseverance and success to family support and professional connections, including Ingrid Waldron at the Dalhousie School of Nursing.
“What I tell people is that whatever you are doing, just do it well, because people know when you’re doing the best and that’s what people want to see,” she says. “Maybe I wasn’t sure what I could do, but I tell people that the people that supported me just took a risk when I wasn’t sure of myself.”
Waldron wasn’t available for an interview as of press time, but gave permission to use part of a letter she wrote in support of Iduye for My Halifax’s Experience’s Top 25 Immigrants application.
“Damilola’s ability to set her goals and achieve them is stunning, and a true embodiment of the immigrant spirit,” wrote Waldon in her letter. “One of the many reasons I believe Damilola is deserving of this award is because of the speed at which she has developed and grown over the past four years I have known her.”
Iduye says while her experience is unique to her, there are others who have gone through a similar journey.
“They may reach out, but if nobody’s reaching back to them it is depressing.”
She believes that while it’s important to stay focused and on top of the paperwork, immigrant nurses need to have support. For her, that means being a connection for others, especially in a community where recertification is a struggle. For example, during her master’s practicum with the Nova Scotia IENs Multi-Stakeholder Workgroup, she focused on the integration of IENs, or international educated nurses in province.
In 2015, Iduye helped set up a peer-to-peer network on Facebook called the Nova Scotia IENs Interest Group, which has more than 700 members.
“I encourage nurses to share their stories because that’s how we motivate ourselves, that’s how we empower ourselves,” she says.
“I met a nurse who told me that she wasn’t even going through the process, but when she heard my story, she said, ‘I think I can do it.’
“So that’s one other thing that I would say, we should just give back and just support each other. That is the key.”
In 2020, Iduye is set to celebrate her second anniversary in Canada, even though she’s been here for eight years.
“I celebrate my anniversary every four years because I came here on Feb. 29,” she says, laughing.