Targeted nurse recruitment paying off, Kingston Health Sciences Centre says

Kingston Health Sciences Centre says offering hiring bonuses helped, in part, see the hospital hire 241 new nurses in 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Lars Hagberg

Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) says its efforts to recruit new nurses is paying off, with hundreds hired in the last few years.

In an update Thursday, KHSC said 241 nurses were hired in 2023 alone, thanks, in part, to new recruitment bonuses introduced last year.

“We’ve certainly had to be creative in how we recruit new staff considering how competitive the hiring market is for nurses across the country,” said Jason Hann, executive vice president of patient care and chief nursing officer, in a release. “We’re pleased to see the program is working.”

Since January 2023 the hospital has been offering sign-on bonuses of up to $10,000 for new hires in pre-determined hard to recruit positions who agree to make a two-year commitment to KHSC.

As well the hospital has been adding an additional $15,000 in relocation support for those who move more than 200 kms to work at KHSC.

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Hann says 98 registered nurses and 13 registered practical nurses have taken advantage of the signing bonus program.

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“And we expect that number will grow as more nursing students graduate this spring,” Hann said. “Impressively, 59 of these nurses have also taken advantage of the relocation incentive, meaning we’re bringing new nurses into our community.”

The hospital says it is also seeing success through its undergraduate nursing employee position, a role developed to help recruit students to permanent positions within the hospital’s medicine program.

Kingston Health Sciences Centre is the first Ontario hospital to introduce such a position, and officials say it has so far attracted 36 students.

Sandra Carlton, executive vice-president and chief human resources officer at KHSC says the work to attract nursing staff have left the hospital in better shape than others in the region.

The hospital’s nurse vacancy rate dropped from 17.5 per cent last March to 13 per cent in October, she said.

“The overall nursing vacancy rate in the Ontario east region is 22 per cent, so we’re performing well compared to our peers,” Carlton noted.

In all the hospital says 847 new nurses, including 682 registered nurses and 165 registered practical nurses, have started at KHSC since 2021.

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With roughly 1,750 nurses currently working, the hospital says it is nearing it’s pre-pandemic levels when 1,771 nurses were on staff in 2019.

“We recognize that we still have more work ahead of us, but I am confident that we’ll be able to do that together,” Hann said. “We’ve made great progress in the last year, and we are committed to continue this work to demonstrate that KHSC is a provincial leader and that our patients are continually receiving the highest quality of care.”

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