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Coronavirus: 75 more nurses ready to help in Saskatchewan, hundreds of students on deck

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WATCH: Saskatchewan's health care system is bracing as the pandemic continues. As Roberta Bell reports, there are already 75 additional nurses waiting in the wings and hundreds of graduating nursing students on deck. – Apr 15, 2020

As Saskatchewan’s health care system braces for the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, at least 75 nurses have come out of the woodwork, ready to help on the front line if and when they’re needed.

The Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association has issued 60 emergency licences while the Saskatchewan Association of Licensed Practical Nurses has changed 15 non-practicing members back to practicing.

Both regulatory bodies have been working closely with the province’s nursing programs.

Between 300 and 400 students graduating this spring could be eligible to work as registered nurses, according to the SRNA. The SALPN says another 100 could be eligible to work as licensed practical nurses.

READ MORE: Thousands of nurses answer call to help with coronavirus pandemic: ‘This is the way we are’

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“Nurses will play a very important role in the care provided during the pandemic period, simply because they are the largest of the professions that will provide care,” said SALPN executive director Lynsay Nair.

On April 3, the health authority announced it was working with professional health bodies on temporary licensing for retirees, non-practicing members and students. The government said it would be covering any associated fees.

Nair is also the chair of the Network of Inter-Professional Regulatory Organizations, an informal group of 27 health regulators in Saskatchewan. All of them are in close communication with the Ministry of Health and the Saskatchewan Health Authority, she said.

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While Nair said several professions are taking steps to provide additional workers, “the need has not presented itself as quickly as when they had thought initially.

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“Given the role of the regulator is to protect the public by issuing licences to those who are safe to have licences issued to, it is important that this process takes place in a proactive manner and isn’t rushed,” Nair said.

“The whole concept of emergency licensure may include licences to those who may not typically receive a licence so particular due care and attention needs to be put into that effort.”

READ MORE: Dozens of retired Alberta physicians, nurses signing up to help fight COVID-19

While the SAPLN has yet to issue an emergency licence, the SRNA gave out its first emergency licence related to the pandemic on March 19.

“We, of course, were just getting the word out in terms of letting eligibile nurses know about this and starting to get them licensed in anticipation that whenever the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s plan was developed and if and when they’re needed, they would be licensed and ready to go,” said SRNA executive director Cindy Smith.

Smith said she understand the health authority will be redeploying internal staff first, but recognizes there could be a need for a supplemental workforce.

“As the pandemic and the number of hospitalizations and those things increase, then they would look at the supplemental workforce, which would include the emergency licensed individuals,” Smith said.

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.