The Kathryn Allen Award, which is presented by the National Committee Partners in Integration and Education of Internationally Educated Nurses, has been awarded to Debbie Kroeker.

This past April marked 20 years for Debbie working with Internationally Educated Nurses (IENs), so it is of no surprise that she is being recognized for this work!

A large part of Debbie’s career was dedicated to MNU’s former Canadian Culture & Communication for Nurses (CCCN) program that ran from 2003 to 2020. MNU’s CCCN program for IENs was one of the first online programs of its kind in Canada.

It grew from humble beginnings, with one-on-one and small groups to serving thousands of IENs across Manitoba and Canada. CCCN grew to be one of the most successful language programs for IENs across Canada – and Debbie’s work and dedication was a large factor in that.

Debbie was the executive director at Professional English Group Canada, and then went on to work for Red River College as a Language Instructor, Program Manager and is now Chair of Occupation Specific Language Learning for Advancement in Healthcare.

This award honors Kathryn Allen, RN, MSc(N), a Nurse Educator from Nova Scotia, whose commitment to the advancement of education and integration of Internationally Educated Nurses (IENs) in Canada was exemplary. The award recognizes a professional who demonstrates excellence and has made outstanding contributions in their work to promote the successful registration and integration of IENs into the Canadian healthcare workforce.

It truly is well-deserved, congratulations Debbie from all of us at MNU!

We asked Debbie what this award means to her and here is her response:

Research tells us that the most significant barrier to integration for IENs is language, especially communicative competence. If IENs aren't successful at this first stage of their journey toward licensure - the stage of developing and proving their language proficiency - there IS no journey.

I have seen esteemed colleagues who are nurses and academics receive this award in past years, but this is the first time I recall it going to someone who works directly with IENs at the very start of the process. Developing communicative competence lays the foundation for CELBAN (Canadian English Language Benchmark Assessment for Nurses) success, which means IENs can not only move forward to the next stage, but also bring valuable communication skills to their clinical practice and employment in healthcare.

Being recognized for work at the start of the journey means a lot to me; my team and I don't always hear about how it ends, but we do get to celebrate how it begins.

When we've run into former IENs in various healthcare settings over the years and see they are now a practicing LPN or RN in Manitoba, there is no greater joy than knowing we had a part in helping pave their way.

I'm grateful to the PIE-IEN National Committee for recognizing my work with IENs for the past 20 years and acknowledge that none of my work would have happened without funding from the Government of Manitoba and Immigration Refugees Citizenship Canada (IRCC), along with the incredible support of the Manitoba Nurses' Union, Professional English Group Canada and now Red River College Polytechnic.