At least half of the 2022 class of nursing graduates in Nova Scotia have already committed to full-time jobs in the province, which has long been struggling with a shortage of nurses and facing union calls to ramp of recruitment efforts.
Of this year's cohort of 700 nursing graduates, 350 people will soon start jobs with Nova Scotia Health and the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, according to the provincial government.
"Our hope is to capture as many as we can and we're pleased with the initial recruitment of 350," said Health Minister Michelle Thompson.
The nursing students are among the first cluster who were guaranteed a position if they agreed to stay in Nova Scotia. The province intends to continue making that pledge for four more years.
Thompson said the remaining graduates aren't necessarily leaving the province; some may still be considering their offers, while others might have accepted positions at facilities outside of the IWK or Nova Scotia Health networks.
Hundreds of RNs, LPNs needed
She acknowledged there's still a long way to go in filling the hundreds of remaining vacancies in Nova Scotia.
At the end of March, Nova Scotia was in need of 1,383 registered nurses and 248 licensed practical nurses.
Currently, there are open spots for 1,566 registered nurses and 365 licensed practical nurses in Nova Scotia.
"We're pulling the bottom of the bucket up a little bit, but there is still a number of positions that are required to be filled at Nova Scotia Health," said Thompson.
The Nova Scotia Nurses' Union said the number of hires is the first step in a long road to fill vacancies in the province.
President Janet Hazelton said people have to be realistic about how long it will take to have a full complement of nurses.
"This shortage has been years in the making, so it's not going to get fixed in a year or two," she said. "There's a light at the end of this tunnel and nurses are pleased to hear that there is commitment, and recruitment is being taken very, very seriously, but we have to look at retention."
She said things like time off and having the right equipment could go a long ways in making sure the current slate of nurses stay.
Job guarantee takes stress off grads
Hazelton made the comments from Toronto, where she is meeting with nursing union leaders from across the country. She said Nova Scotia is the only province to guarantee all grads a position, and it's a move that needs to be applauded.
"It also takes the stress off these nurses, knowing that when they come out, they will get a job — a full-time job — with the appropriate amount of preceptorship and mentorship," she said.
Hazelton said the key is to hire the students immediately after they finish school, noting "once they leave the province, it's very, very difficult to get them back."
Thompson said the new hires will have staggered starts depending on their positions. Some of them will be working as graduate nurses until they write their NCLEX exams, which are mandatory to receive their licensure.
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