Retired nurse wants to help hospitals amid pandemic, says cost to return should be waived

·3 min read

After hanging up her scrubs in 2019, retired Windsor nurse Susan Ellsworth wants to return to the front lines and help out health-care professionals during the pandemic.

But she says one thing is stopping her from doing that — the cost to reinstate her license to work as a nurse again.

According to the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO), the cost to apply and re-instate is $226 and the annual registration fee that is also required is $305.10 — making that a total of at least $531.10 — a fee that Ellsworth said she can't afford.

"With this pandemic, people want to help out. And I think that it would free up licensed nurses, RNs and RPNs, to do other things. Then we could say, help out doing testing, help out with paperwork, help out with giving the vaccines," she said. "I'm sure I'm not the only person that feels this way."

She said there is a series of procedures she must follow in order to return to work which can add up in cost. She wants the fees to activate her license to be waived.

Apu Gomes/AFP/Getty Images
Apu Gomes/AFP/Getty Images

"Especially when there's some of us that have worked in nursing for years and they're not going to give us a break?" Ellsworth said, adding that the pandemic is far from over.

"I worked through SARS. It was not near anything like this, but just when you hear people saying, like, 'oh, the cases are down today. ... It's going to get better now,' but, you know from working yourself and nursing that it's not," she said.

Early in the pandemic last year, the Ontario government declared it needs "all hands on deck" to fight the pandemic and has called in the military to assist front-line workers,

Ellsworth says feels heartbroken that she can't help and she's willing to volunteer her time and work unpaid.

In an email statement to CBC News, CNO said retired nurses can work as an unrelated care producer which has no cost attached to it.

Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images
Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images

"Retired nurses who are no longer registered with CNO and who want to help with the pandemic efforts, including the vaccination rollout, can choose to work as an unregulated care provider. As an unregulated care provider, any controlled acts they are performing, such as administering a substance by injection, would have to be delegated to them," the statement reads.

"However, if they want to resume practice as a nurse and they have practised within the last three years, they can choose to reinstate their CNO membership," it continues.

After being informed of this, Ellsworth said this brought her hope and she would look into working as an unregulated care provider immediately.

One hospital says it's not suffering a shortage of nurses

CBC News reached out to local hospitals to see if there was a demand for nurse volunteers.

In an email statement, Erie Shores Healthcare said it's currently "not suffering a shortage of nurses, so this is not an issue we have discussed. That being said, if we ever found ourselves in a nursing shortage situation, this would be something we would have to consider on a case-by-case basis, along with any other relevant options."

In another email statement from Hotel Dieu Grace Hospital (HDGH), it said it "will explore any and all options available to assist with the recruitment of nursing staff."

"We have been actively recruiting since the beginning of the pandemic. To date, we have not had any retired nurses express an interest to join our hospital. With that said, HDGH would agree to pay the fees associated with reinstating a retired nurses licence." the statement reads.

"However, in the interest of not disadvantaging our current nursing staff, we would pay the fee and establish an agreed-upon process that would allow for the hospital to recover the expense by way of payroll deduction," it continues.

CBC News reached out to the provincial government for comment, but officials didn't respond to requests for comment by the time of publication.