At least half of latest N.S. nursing grads sign on for jobs in province

At least half of Nova Scotia’s Class of 2022 nursing graduates have already committed to full-time jobs in the province, which has long struggled with a nursing shortage and faces calls from unions to intensify recruitment efforts.

According to the provincial government, of this year’s cohort of 700 nursing graduates, 350 people will soon start working at Nova Scotia Health and the IWK Health Center in Halifax.

“Our hope is to capture as many as possible and we are happy with the initial recruitment of 350,” Health Minister Michelle Thompson said.

Nursing students are among the first group to be guaranteed a job if they agree to stay in Nova Scotia. The province intends to continue to make this commitment for another four years.

Thompson said the remaining graduates don’t necessarily leave the province; some may still be considering their offers, while others may have accepted positions at facilities outside of the IWK or Nova Scotia Health Networks.

Hundreds of RNs and LPNs Needed

She acknowledged that there is still a long way to go to fill the hundreds of vacancies in Nova Scotia.

At the end of March, Nova Scotia needed 1,383 registered nurses and 248 licensed practical nurses.

Currently, there are spaces available for 1,566 registered nurses and 365 licensed practical nurses in Nova Scotia.

“We’re bottoming out a bit, but there are still a number of vacancies at Nova Scotia Health,” Thompson said.

Nova Scotia Nurses Union president Janet Hazelton says there’s no quick fix to the nursing shortage, especially when every other province is desperate to hire more staff. (David Laughlin/CBC)

The Nova Scotia Nurses Union said the hiring numbers are the first step on a long road to filling vacancies in the province.

President Janet Hazelton said people need to be realistic about how long it will take to have a full complement of nurses.

“This shortage has been going on for years, so it won’t be resolved in a year or two,” she said. “There is a light at the end of this tunnel and nurses are delighted to hear that there is commitment, and recruitment is being taken very, very seriously, but we need to look at retention.”

She said things like furloughs and having the right equipment could go a long way to ensuring the current roster of nurses stays.

Job guarantee relieves graduates of stress

Hazelton made the comments from Toronto, where she meets with nursing union leaders from across the country. She said Nova Scotia is the only province to guarantee a job for all graduates, and that’s a decision to be applauded.

“It also takes the stress off these nurses knowing that when they get out they will get a job – a full-time job – with the right amount of preceptorship and mentorship,” she said.

Hazelton said the key is hiring students immediately after they graduate, noting that “once they leave the province, it’s very, very difficult to get them back.”

Thompson said new recruits will have staggered starts based on their positions. Some of them will work as registered nurses until they pass their NCLEX exams, which are required to receive their license to practice.

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