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Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

BC incentives to recruit foreign and retired nurses welcome news amid crisis

“Mostly because of the staffing issues, there's more being put on each nurse’s shoulders, with less resources available to support them,” said one Island Health nurse

By Brishti Basu
January 10, 2023
Health
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

BC incentives to recruit foreign and retired nurses welcome news amid crisis

“Mostly because of the staffing issues, there's more being put on each nurse’s shoulders, with less resources available to support them,” said one Island Health nurse

By Brishti Basu
Jan 10, 2023
Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier David Eby announce financial incentives for foreign-trained and retired nurses on Jan. 9. Photo: Province of British Columbia/Flickr
Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier David Eby announce financial incentives for foreign-trained and retired nurses on Jan. 9. Photo: Province of British Columbia/Flickr
Health
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

BC incentives to recruit foreign and retired nurses welcome news amid crisis

“Mostly because of the staffing issues, there's more being put on each nurse’s shoulders, with less resources available to support them,” said one Island Health nurse

By Brishti Basu
January 10, 2023
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BC incentives to recruit foreign and retired nurses welcome news amid crisis
Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier David Eby announce financial incentives for foreign-trained and retired nurses on Jan. 9. Photo: Province of British Columbia/Flickr

Premier David Eby and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced new financial incentives for internationally trained nurses and retired nurses who want to go back to work, saying in a Monday press conference that they expect the money will bring thousands back into the labour force in as little as three months. 

Neither foreign nurses nor retired ones will have to pay upfront application costs anymore. For Canadian-educated nurses who want to go back to work, the application fee of $300 has been waived, and the province will directly pay for international nurses’ assessment fees of over $3,700.

Nurses who want to go back to work can also get up to $4,000 to cover applications, assessments, and travel costs, and $10,000 in bursaries to update their training. 

The move is the latest provincial effort to add more nurses to the labour market in the wake of a nursing shortage, a major contributor to the current healthcare crisis in BC. 

The lack of adequate nursing staff to fill shifts at hospitals has caused emergency room shutdowns, and dangerous situations like the one we reported on last spring, in which just three nurses were left caring for 25 patients. Nurses and healthcare workers have reported burnout after being stretched thin over the course of the pandemic and toxic drug crisis, and one in three say they are likely to quit in the next two years. 

According to Eby, there are 2,000 Canadian-trained nurses in BC whose back-to-work assessments would be sped up after their financial barriers are removed. 

“Beyond that, I understand there are more than 5,000 nurses that have expressed interest in coming to practice in British Columbia,” Eby said. Getting rid of the upfront costs, he said, would help foreign-trained nurses decide to work here. 

Dix and Eby said they expect some nurses to start working in as little as 90 days as a result of these measures, but did not specify how many. 

The incentives were announced two days after Dix decided to reconvene high-level emergency meetings at 20 hospitals to discuss how the healthcare system will handle this surge of COVID-19 and respiratory illness patients after the holiday season.

‘A dire need’

Julia, an Island Health nurse who requested her name be changed to protect her identity in case of backlash from management, said she knows of nurses who have already quit because of burnout from lack of staffing. 

“Mostly because of the staffing issues, there's more being put on each nurse’s shoulders, with less resources available to support them,” Julia said. “Nurses are looking after more patients than previous to the pandemic. The [nurse-to-patient] ratio is, I believe, at an unsafe level.” 

Amid calls for action , last spring the province announced $12 million in bursaries and a streamlined process for foreign-trained nurses to become accredited in BC. This step, they said on Monday, has helped 2,000 people start the process of getting approved to work here. They also highlighted a move in September to reduce the amount of time it takes foreign nurses to get licensed here, from three years down to four to nine months.

At the same press conference, BC Nurses’ Union president Aman Grewal welcomed the province’s announcement and the news that there are thousands of nurses waiting to work in BC. 

“We're looking forward to being able to have these nurses come in and to mentor them, because they will need the mentoring and support along the way,” Grewal said on Monday. “It's going to be exciting for us to be able to get more nurses to support the nurses that are already on the frontlines.”

In an interview with CBC, published Tuesday, Grewal said these supports should have been made available “decades ago” and that the province failed to heed warnings about the crisis they now face. She added that there were over 5,000 vacant nursing positions as of spring 2022.

While the financial incentives announced on Monday are expected to bolster the healthcare system in months, it does not address the immediate crisis in which nearly nine out of 10 hospital beds on average are full across the province. They also don’t address issues with management that frontline nurses have raised in the past, like an ingrained fear of publicly talking about their deteriorating workplace conditions and payroll issues

However the expectation is that the new measures will soon add more nurses to the frontlines, which according to Julia is the biggest necessity at the moment.

“There's a pretty dire need for nurses in the hospitals right now,” she said. “In every unit across the board, pretty much, there's staffing issues.”

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