International Nurses Coming To Swan Hills

·2 min read

Town Council received a mixed bag of exciting and disheartening news about the staffing situation at the Swan Hills Healthcare Centre (SHHC) during the Swan Hills Town Council meeting on Apr. 26 as Rita Foster, Site Manager for the Swan Hills and Barrhead Healthcare Centres, provided an update.

Foster reported that there haven’t been any applicants for the open Combined Lab and X-ray Technician (CLXT) position at the SHHC. The CLXT position has been open since Jan. 16. A Lab Assistant who began working at the SHHC shortly after this date has provided some relief to the situation, but the lab is still unable to take x-rays or perform urgent bloodwork. The physicians at the SHHC are very concerned about this situation and view the prospect of running an emergency department without diagnostics as unsafe.

A meeting is scheduled for Apr. 27 with senior leadership from Alberta Health Services (AHS) to look at more options for getting Lab and X-ray services back in Swan Hills. AHS has looked into hiring contract lab or x-ray staff to alleviate the situation, but they are very much in demand and hard to come by.

On a much brighter note, Swan Hills has been approved for two internationally educated Registered Nurses (RNs). Foster anticipates that a couple of months of training will be required before the new nurses will be ready to work independently; one month at the Barrhead Healthcare Centre followed by a month of “buddy shifts” in Swan Hills. It is hoped that the nurses will be able to start the process in September.

When the training process has been completed, the two additional RNs will fill the SHHC’s currently vacant positions and bring the hospital back to being fully staffed with RNs for the first time in over two years. The new nurses will stay in Swan Hills for 2 – 5 years.

Foster explains that helping these individuals and their families will require significant community involvement as they will be adjusting to a new country and culture. The new Swan Hills residents will need housing and might have children that will need to register at the school. The Swan Hills community will have to come together to make these families feel welcome and help them to get settled in. Hopefully, we can help them feel at home so that they want to be here and will want to stay.

While this is excellent news in the longer term, the shorter term may present some challenges. Contract and agency nurses are currently covering the existing vacancies, but these staff members are not permanent employees. Foster reports that she does not have additional staff to supplement the vacant nursing positions past July 16. While there are no planned overnight closures at this time, it is certainly a possibility if AHS is unable to secure additional nursing staff by this date.

Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette