RN grads frustrated with Health PEI

Some UPEI nursing grads say they’ve been misled by a new Health PEI recruitment team that implied they could receive job offers in their preferred area of service 90 days before graduation, as well as thousands in financial incentives.

“The way they sold it to us in the fall was ‘the world’s your oyster, whatever you want, whatever your specialty of choice is, we’ll set you up,’” said a recent grad who wished to stay anonymous.

As of May 20th Health PEI had recruited 30 of UPEI’s 77 grads. Twenty accepted full-time roles, eligible for between $8,000 and $13,000 return in-service incentives. Eight accepted part-time roles not eligible for incentives, according to Ryan White, Health PEI’s director of Talent Management.

But these hires were not completed without a flurry of confusion and panic among some grads who expected formal job offers months earlier.

“It has put a bitter taste in our mouths before we’ve even started work,” the new grad said.

As requested, she submitted her top three preferred work placements near Christmas as well as a reference from her clinical placement preceptor in February.

Late in March the grad received an offer in one of her least favourable units. She turned it down and asked the recruitment team if there were other opportunities available.

No one responded.

Dismayed, she began applying for work in other Maritime provinces.

“It’s not something I wanted to do,” she said. Ideally she wants to work on PEI long-term.

As UPEI’s May 14 convocation date approached, a group of classmates started chatting on social media, concerned about silence regarding placements, she said. The upcoming grads realized the failure of the recruitment team to communicate and coordinate preferred placements was widespread.

Fourth year students began to email Health PEI as well as local MLAs and Health Minister Mark McLane. Three day before graduation, Health PEI sent a letter to the students.

“We’re working diligently on our RN Graduate Matching efforts to find the perfect placement for each of you. We want to match you with a role that aligns with your areas of preference,” the letter said.

“We know there has been some confusion concerning the graduate matching process to the desired positions, and we apologize for the frustration that has caused,” it said.

“To help expedite this process and give you a head start on exploring potential opportunities, we’ve attached a list of current nursing vacancies at Health PEI.”

The attached list included 32 positions. Few were in specialty areas commonly sought by graduates, the grad said.

Only nine positions were full-time and eligible for incentives which had been positioned by recruiters as widely available.

“We were shocked,” she said.

“They were mostly in med surg and long-term care.” she added, noting not all grads want to pursue those career paths.

“I’ll be honest with you, my heart sank when I saw it too,” Mr White said.

On the day of convocation, Health PEI sent grads an updated list including about 20 more positions. Nine of these were eligible for the full-time return in service incentives.

Mr White said the additional positions were identified by going through roles with a fine-tooth comb to identify positions a grad could fill.

He said the list was shorter than he would like for a variety of reasons. Grads can only fill roles that are open to competition by the public. Internal listings are off limits.

Only about 50 per cent of these roles are full-time and some are temporary. Some positions can only be filled by RNs with experience. Some units can also only handle a limited number of newly-trained nurses.

But the grad knew there were far more positions open that weren’t on the list. She did a job search of her own and has been offered a part-time position in one of her top-rated units.

In the end, she said, the new talent management team got in the way of her recruitment.

Mr White said, these are issues the team will work to address moving forward.

“We have revise the criteria to maximize the number of positions we can offer versus minimizing them,” he said.

The grad isn’t sure if all her classmates realize there may be more positions they could fill beyond those on the grad matching team’s list. She added offering incentives more widely would make Island job offers more competitive with other provinces’, such as Alberta, where anyone signing is eligible for a financial incentive.

Mr White said the program has secured funding for three student engagement personnel who will be able to answer questions in a more timely way and guide students through recruitment processes.

“In the past week, we’ve relied heavily on both the Public Service Commission and the recruitment retention team, for the government’s Department of Health and Wellness, but we don’t have dedicated internal recruitment resources,” he said, noting internal initiatives like this grad matching program should lead to improvements over time.

“We are working to build a team, to build the infrastructure to make it happen,” he said.

Another eight full-time and four part-time offers were pending as of press time, according to Mr White.

Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic