Climbing the ladder: Tips for newcomers who aspire to leadership roles in Canada’s health care system

Published May 2, 2022.

Estimated reading time: 2.5 minutes

In summary:
  • There will be exciting and growing leadership opportunities for skilled immigrant and refugee health care professionals across Canada, in the years ahead.
  • Internationally-educated health care workers can achieve their career advancement goals by engaging with other health care leaders, building a support network and focusing on career-long professional development.
  • There are numerous professional networks for emerging health care leaders and profession-specific networks for doctors and nurses to build their leadership capacity.

Labour shortages in Canada’s health care system have been well-publicized and exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. What gets less discussed are the changes taking place in Canadian health care leadership ranks.  

CCHL_Alain-Doucet_webAccording to Alain Doucet, President and CEO of the Canadian College of Health Leaders (CCHL), there is a looming leadership gap as aging senior executives at hospitals and health care organizations retire or depart the sector. Factors like restrained health care spending, aging populations and rapidly-changing technologies will demand diverse and bold leaders who bring vision, innovation and new perspectives to Canada’s health care system. These changes can mean significant career development opportunities for internationally-educated health care professionals who aspire to leadership positions.

Alain Doucet, who leads the Canadian College of Health Leaders (CCHL) says skilled immigrant and refugee health care professionals will be needed to address the looming leadership gap in the sector.

Doucet says health care needs newcomer workers across Canada, and across the healthcare continuum, to fill clinical roles, and are also needed to fill leadership roles, all the way up to the C-Suite.

Windmill’s Career Success and Planning Centre offers a variety of downloadable resources to help you reach your health care career goals in Canada, from our Trending Jobs Report to our Skilled Immigrant Career Success Guide. Click here to visit the Centre and take the first step toward unlocking your career potential.

Doucet offers the following tips for new Canadian health care professionals who want to put themselves on track to pursue senior management opportunities in the sector.

Engage and connect with health care leaders

For aspiring health care leaders, career advancement starts with becoming a member of the CCHL, or organizations like the Canadian Health Leadership Network, the Canadian Society of Physician Leaders and the Canadian Nurses Association. Take advantage of the various opportunities to connect with members with similar backgrounds and career profiles. Attending various workshops, seminars and conferences can help strengthen knowledge and better understand the specific context and realities of Canadian health care.

Build your support network

As a newcomer, taking the relationships you form in Tip #1, and building a network of people who can offer you career guidance and mentorship is critically important. Your network should be able to mentor and champion you and your skills and help develop your leadership qualities This will better position you to reach your leadership goals. For example, Emerging Health Leaders focuses on early career support and experience through professional development, mentorship and community building. The CCHL also offers a professional network called “The Circle” and delivers leadership credential programs that may benefit internationally-educated health care professionals on their path to senior leadership.

Demonstrate a commitment to career-long learning

Understandably, professional licensing is often the top priority for newcomer-health-care professionals. However, you can gain a competitive advantage by growing your knowledge of and connecting with the Canadian healthcare system. Pursuing professional development courses, career coaching and building leadership skills is a lifelong journey. While a top priority should be finding employment and integrating into the Canadian health system, all health leaders can improve their performance and impact through a commitment to career-long learning.

The CCHL offers a full range of programming, services and resources available to all health leaders, regardless of title and responsibilities. To learn more about CCHL’s Certified Health Executive (CHE) credential program, click here.


Are you an internationally-trained health care professional who wants to build their leadership skills or pursue professional development in Canada? Windmill Microlending can help you reach your career goals with an affordable loan of up to $15,000 to pay for the costs of your studies. Take two minutes to complete our loan eligibility quiz.

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