Interest in nursing rising as SHA deals with staffing shortages
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is battling with a nursing shortage across the province.
The SHA said as of December, there are 647 registered nurse (RN) or registered psychiatric nurse (RPN) vacancies and 155 licensed practical nurse (LPN) openings.
Cheryl Pollard, dean of the faculty of nursing at the University of Regina, said the vacancies are being credited to retirements and burnout.
“We’re seeing nurses that are within their first five years of their profession and starting work wanting to change careers,” Pollard said. “(COVID-19) has affected our mental health in ways that we wouldn’t have predicted before the pandemic.”
However, that has stopped people from wanting to get into nursing, according to Pollard.
She said interest in nursing programs has gone up, with three to four applications for each open seat in the program.
“I think that speaks to the values that we hold near and dear here in Saskatchewan. If there is a call and someone needs help, we will figure out a way to do that,” Pollard added.
Currently there are 350 seats in the U of R’s nursing program.
The University of Saskatchewan told CTV news it has 345 seats in the school’s College of Nursing Bachelor of Science Nursing program.
Both universities said their programs have about 300 nursing graduates each year.
To push more graduates into the workforce, Pollard said the universities are working with the SHA to add more seats to the programs, as well as shorten the education time.
“We may be looking to add more seats for people who already have degrees or looking at clinical (lateral). So if someone’s an LPN already, is there a way to speed up that education into being an RN,” said Pollard.
In a statement to CTV News, the SHA said it is working with staffing agencies to secure nurses for the Royal University and St. Paul’s Hospitals emergency departments from December 2021 to March 2022, to ease some capacity concerns.
“This is a short term measure to bridge the gap in staffing while new nurses are being trained and oriented into the emergency departments,” the SHA continued in its statement.
The province is also recruiting international nurses, with a focus on workers from the Philippines.
“The SHA is hoping to recruit at least 150 and as many as 300 health care workers over the course of this initiative focusing on hard to recruit staff including Registered Nurses and Licensed Practical Nurses, Medical Laboratory Technologists and Continuing Care Assistants, noting that any of the targeted list of occupations/professions will need to take into consideration accreditation and licensing requirements here in Canada,” the Ministry of Health said in a statement.
The province did a similar initiative during nursing shortages 2007 and 2008.
Pollard said if the province and SHA agrees to increase the number of seats in the provincial programs and shortens the time of in-class education, Saskatchewan could fill the vacancies locally.
“When we look at out own graduation and our own post secondary programs, we’re really well positioned to help Saskatchewan meet the needs of its nurses,” Pollard added.