In the wake of a growing shortage, New Brunswick has released a strategy to address what it says will be a worsening shortage of nurses in the coming decade if action is not taken.
“We have got a demand for health care which is growing in the range of five percent a year, we have an economy that is growing 1.2 percent a year,” said Ted Flemming the New Brunswick Health Minister.
The Nursing Resource Strategy focuses on the recruitment and retention of nurses as well as the promotion of the profession and the enhancement of nursing education.
Specific actions include recruiting foreign nurses as part of an immigration effort that would identify countries with similar professional standards and reduce potential barriers to registration in the profession.
As well, there will be an increased focus on attracting nursing students to New Brunswick’s universities and registered nurses to the province’s workforce.
There is also a plan to introduce high school students to the health professions through the school curriculum and co-op opportunities.
The province will consider financial incentives, including signing bonuses for nurses who agree to work for three years in rural areas.
The strategy document says action is needed because the number of nurses in the province is decreasing while the demand for their services keeps increasing.
“We are going to continue to face a shortage of nurses unless we take action now to ensure we have enough nurses to serve our population,” Health Minister Hugh Flemming said in a news release.
The document says the most recent New Brunswick labour market outlook estimates a total of 4,376 registered nurses jobs will open over the next decade.
It says the Health Department is projecting a shortage of at least 130 registered nurses each year over the next 10 years, leaving a deficit of about 1,300 nurses due to an aging workforce – 41 per cent of nurses in the province are 50 or older. Lower enrolment in the province’s bachelor of nursing programs has also been a problem.
Overall these factors and others led to a 4.4 per cent decrease in the number of employed registered nurses in New Brunswick between 2013 and 2017.
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The Nurses Association of New Brunswick says it supports the effort by the government but wants to see tangible changes.
“The Nurses Association of New Brunswick supports any effort to address the nursing shortage and will continue to participate on the nursing resource strategy, as we anticipate immediate action to further implement the plan,” association president Maureen Wallace said.
The next step is for the province and its nurses to start working towards implementing the report’s recommendations
The province says an update will be released every two years to gauge whether the objectives are being met.
With files from The Canadian Press