Welcome Messages

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Chair of the Board

It is an exciting time of transitions at Touchstone Institute. We are thrilled to be working collaboratively with partners from across the country to implement programs and services that support meeting the critical health care workforce needs of Canadians with qualified professionals, while also growing and innovating as an organization. 

In Ontario, we are leading the multi-partner program design and implementation of Practice Ready Ontario. The Ministry of Health, Ontario Health, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, the Medical Council of Canada and Touchstone Institute are all contributing to this newest practice ready assessment initiative that is working to proactively engage qualified internationally trained physicians in a workplace-based assessment to get them into practice quickly and with a focus on delivering high quality family physician care.    

The Practice Ready Ontario program will ensure qualified physicians can put their valuable skills to use and people living in communities, currently underserved by family physicians, will gain access to needed services. This work, along with an increase in the number of internationally trained physicians receiving residency spots at Ontario medical schools, is just one of many initiatives that the Ontario Ministry of Health, Touchstone Institute, and partners are undertaking to provide connected care.   

Pan-Canadian programming is also essential at a time when shifts in the policy landscape for the integration of internationally educated nurses, point to increased collaboration and harmonization of practice requirements. Decreases in the number of internationally educated nurses accessing exams and assessments point to the immediate impact of modernizing entry requirements to practice expediting access for Canadians to the health care supports they require. We are confident that governments, regulators, and other stakeholders will seek innovative approaches to ensure that internationally educated nurses have the supports they require to practice effectively in a new province or territory while ensuring that requirements to practice are modernized. 

Touchstone Institute has continued to demonstrate resilience and a spirit for innovation throughout the transition back to in person programming while continuing to deliver many of our services virtually.  In support of a coordinated, pan-Canadian approach, we have updated the internationally educated nurse competency exam to a nationally valid, virtually delivered exam - the Registered Nurses of Canada Competency Assessment Program is now available to nursing regulators across the country who may require an expedited, objective evidence of competence from applicants. This ability to extend access to programs across the country is an advantage for how Touchstone Institute can contribute, in collaboration with partners, to improved ways of supporting skill acquisition and learning over the course of a health professional’s lifetime practice.    

As we look ahead, we are energized by working closely with partners across the country to solve health workforce recruitment challenges, to provide learning, remediations and new skill acquisition supports, and to proactively educate health care professionals who are facing shifts in scope of practice or the introduction of new technologies.  We look forward to the year ahead, with new CEO leadership, and an essential focus on how organizations co-create solutions to health human resource challenges to best serve Canadians.   

Andrea Strachan, Interim CEO (April - May 2023)


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With each passing year as a Board Chair of Touchstone Institute, I continue to be impressed by the resilience of this organization to consistently deliver high value programs and services. Organizational perseverance is especially apparent in the face of challenges and a changing external landscape. Our longstanding reputation for success continues to position Touchstone Institute for important leadership roles as an integral part of the commitment to internationally trained health professionals seeking entry into training and practice in Ontario and beyond. These opportunities allow Touchstone Institute to contribute solutions to the current health human resources crisis. Highlights from 2022/2023 year showcase some key achievements that are important today, as well as for tomorrow, to ensure that Canadians benefit from the highest quality professional competence across the health care system. 

In partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Health, Touchstone Institute is leading the implementation of a multistakeholder, multiyear project to create and administer a practice ready workplace assessment to ensure that essential family physician care can be provided efficiently and effectively in rural communities across the province. We know that no one organization alone can make the needed changes. Collective action is needed to solve longstanding challenges for the health system, and we are proud to be playing a role in this essential work. 

Touchstone Institute also launched the NurseReady App with funding support through Employment and Social Development Canada to develop an online nursing language and communication self-assessment tool for internationally educated nurses. With requirements for internationally educated nurses to practice in Canada changing across the country, it is an important time to ensure that nurses from other countries have the necessary supports to achieve a successful transition to practice in Canada. In combination with our competency-based learning communication programs, Touchstone Institute is a critical partner to support the delivery of high-quality patient centered care. 

The organization continues to make progress against its 2022-2025 strategic plan with a key focus this year on evolving our delivery model with technology to include in person, virtual and hybrid service models that allow for the contribution to the provision of needed health human resources. 

The Board established a CEO Search Committee to recruit a new CEO to lead Touchstone Institute through its next phase of growth and development leveraging our unique expertise to address the current health human resources shortages to ensure the greatest benefit to the health care system. We welcomed our new CEO, Nicole Beben, on June 5, 2023.

Touchstone Institute is driven by a shared dedication to ensure that the highest standards in professional competence for each client are met so that the most capable individuals are being integrated into the health care workforce to serve the health care needs of Canadians. On behalf of the Board, I wish to thank Sten Ardal for his longstanding leadership of Touchstone Institute as he retires and to acknowledge Andrea Strachan for taking on the Interim CEO role during a time of signification transition. The Board also wants to acknowledge and thank the staff at Touchstone Institute for their ongoing commitment to the mission of the organization. 

 Ella Ferris, Board Chair

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© 2023 Touchstone Institute

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