efforts to attractfrom other provinces are underway in various parts of the country, but the head of a national nurses’ association says poaching won’t solve anything unless working conditions improve.
“We know that nurses face inadequate working conditions, and that is the main reason many leave their jobs,” Sylvain Brousseau, president of the Canadian Nurses Association, said in an interview Thursday.
“If working conditions and retention are not the focus, new recruited nurses from other provinces may want to leave their jobs.”
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This week, Horizon Health Network, one of New Brunswick’s two health authorities, held three-day recruiting events in Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. His proposal to attract 120 nurses to the province includes the promise of an attractive life near the ocean with financial incentives of up to $20,000.
A spokesman said recruiting outside of New Brunswick is not new, and that it is also hiring nurses through partnerships with universities in Maine and in India, as well as taking steps to retain workers. The province’s other regional health authority, Vitalite Health Network, says it will attend several career fairs in Quebec in the coming weeks.
Last week, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that the province will begin automatically recognizing the credentials of registered healthcare workers in other provinces and territories. “A doctor from British Columbia or a nurse from Quebec who wants to come to work in Ontario should not face barriers or bureaucratic delays to start providing care,” Ford said at a news conference on January 19.
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Newfoundland and Labrador has introduced incentives in an effort to attract home health care workers with connections to the province, while Quebec said it is looking to recruit internationally.
“All provinces in Canada face the same challenge of labor shortages in their health care systems,” Health Minister Christian Dube’s office said in a statement. “It is in everyone’s interest to recruit people internationally. Meanwhile, we continue working to make our network an employer of choice and to improve working conditions.”
Brousseau said nurses need better pay, more support staff so they can focus on caring for patients, and responsibility for fewer patients.
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“30 years ago in surgery, I had six patients during the day, seven to eight in the afternoon shift, and 12 in the night shift, and now it’s 15 during the day in surgery in some places, or 10. This it’s too much,” he said.
Brosseau said she would also like to see an end to practices like mandatory overtime, which remain common in Quebec, and for nurses to be pressured to work seemingly optional overtime shifts.
He said the nurses’ association is not opposed to nurses going to work in another province and has been calling for a reduction in barriers between provinces, but that will not solve the problems.
“It is not by going to steal nurses from one province to (another) that you are going to solve the crisis of the health system that we are going through at the moment,” he said. “It is by providing them with better working conditions and a better health care environment.”
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Ivy Lynn Bourgeault, a professor at the University of Ottawa and director of the Canadian Health Workforce Network, said efforts to recruit nurses across provincial borders are a symptom of a broader problem.
While it’s not the first time Canadian health care systems have been looking for staff elsewhere in the country, the shortage of nurses and other health workers is worse than ever.
“I think what’s new is the magnitude of the problem and that every province is in these circumstances, and this is not just a Canadian problem. This is happening all over the world,” she said in an interview on Thursday.
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Solving Canada’s nursing shortage must start with retention, she argues; recruitment alone cannot solve it. “He’s focusing on one part of the challenge, bringing in more, and we’re not looking at everyone leaving,” she said. “It’s not a long-term strategy.”
Bourgeault said that governments need better data for workforce planning and that federal agencies, such as the Canadian Institute for Health Information and Statistics Canada, could be used to provide provinces with better tools.
Mandatory nurse-to-patient ratios would also help retain nurses, he said, but in the short term could lead to longer wait times.
“I think that as a society we need to have a crucial conversation about how to handle this crisis moving forward,” he said.
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