Versatility with VON Windsor Essex

Over the past few months, Workforce WindsorEssex has noticed an increase in employers prioritizing multilingualism in their job postings. Workforce WindsorEssex Research Associate Marissa Bumanlag interviews local employers on the topic of hiring those who can speak multiple languages and what kind of benefits they bring to the organization in this series: Multilingualism in the Workforce

This time, Workforce WindsorEssex Research Associate Marissa Bumanlag sat down and spoke with Liz Mikol, Care and Service Manager, and Antoinette Nasr, Clinic Coordinator, of the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON Windsor Essex) to talk about the use of knowing multiple languages within their own organization.

Mikol has been involved with VON Windsor Essex since 1988 while Nasr was hired on in 2016 with the VON Windsor Essex Immigrant Health Clinic. Mikol and Nasr explains the importance of how versatile the VON Windsor Essex has become as a result of having staff equipped to speak, write, and translate in multiple languages.

The Who

VON is Canada’s oldest healthcare charity, operating in Windsor Essex for over 80 years.  In Windsor, one of the ways VON WE works with communities is through its Immigrant Health Clinic which provides free health care services to newcomers, immigrants, students, and those who are uninsured. The VON has had jobs that require multi-language abilities since 2016. The primary target for filling this demand are nurses, personal support workers, and mental health counsellors. The organization has encountered an increase in staff being fluent in English, Arabic, and French in order to meet the needs of the population they are serving. Nasr mentions that “enhancing care service” through “personalizing” the experience of the client is vital to the success of the clinic.

Job positions requiring multi-language abilities contributes to the goals of the organization by providing face-to-face care that expands to the migrant population. One of VON Windsor Essex’s mandates from its funders is to provide health care to newcomers with language aid, this goal is met by diversifying the staff’s language capabilities.

As the community depends on the VON Windsor Essex clinic for translating immunization cards and assisting clients with the self-report portion of the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), it is vital to have accessible resources so these members of the community are able to receive the proper help they need.

From Clinic to Community

As the VON Windsor Essex did not have similar clinics in the region, they encountered difficulties  starting from scratch since there were no previous examples. Although this was a holistic challenge, hiring “staff that were able to interpret clients in person and over the phone was extremely important to providing assessments,” Mikol states. Additionally, Mikol and Nasr pointed out the benefit of hiring those who could speak multiple languages included the personal connections formed with the community, and as hospitality strengthened, so too did the amount the returning clients did with the organization.

The organization also seeks to reach out to the community through participating in a variety of partnerships like the WindsorEssex Local Immigration Partnership (WE LIP) and annual health fairs around Windsor-Essex. Presentations on personal hygiene, women’s health and mental health assistance have also been conducted at many settlement agencies and community centres through offering sessions in Arabic and English. Beyond the clinic, VON Windsor Essex also offers a senior exercise program called Seniors Maintaining Active Roles Together (SMART), field assessments in Leamington, and Meals on Wheels where 50,000 meals a year are delivered by volunteers in Windsor-Essex alone, to name a few.


Making the Leap

Continuing to support the value of hiring those who can speak multiple languages has been a key asset with the VON Windsor Essex Immigrant Health Clinic, as the organization is receptive to the needs of the community at large. Nasr said that when one is contemplating hiring those with multi-language abilities to “just go for it, as it is helping your community by providing jobs and by tailoring the experience of your clients”.

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