The Alberta government revealed more details Monday of its plan to deal with a shortage of nurses in its health-care system.
The province is to invest more than $15 million to train and support more internationally educated nurses, like Uche Nechi, who trained in Nigeria and had to wait nearly five years before she was able to resume her career in Alberta.
“At some point you have to think about ‘OK, I really wanted this but it’s about a balance of life and family,'” Nechi, who graduated last month and is working in Calgary, told a news conference.
The plan, initially announced in October, includes $7.8 million allowing students to access up to $30,000 in bursaries. The remainder of the funds will create 600 new seats for nurse bridging programs at Bow Valley College and Mount Royal University in Calgary and NorQuest College in Edmonton.
“Access to financial support like the bursary announced today help alleviate some of the stress so internationally educated nurses like me can focus more on our education and less on paying our bills,” said Nechi.
Bursary recipients are required to complete a year of nursing service in Alberta for every $6,000 received. It is to become available in the 2023-24 academic year.
Alberta’s advanced education minister said many internationally educated nurses face long wait-lists and significant financial barriers to gain accreditation.
“Albertans need more nurses and there are hundreds of internationally educated nurses who want to come live and work in Alberta,” said Demetrios Nicolaides.
Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping said programs can cost tens of thousands of dollars and it can take years to get into a bridging program to attain the necessary licence.
“The financial hurdles many face when looking to align their training with Alberta standards can also add to the stress and anxiety created coming to a new province and a new country to work,” he said.
Once an international student is able to get into a program, it usually takes between 10 and 14 months to complete.
Many of the nurses come from the Philippines and other Asian countries, the United Kingdom, the United States and parts of the Caribbean.
Alberta signed a memorandum of understanding with the Philippines last year.
Philippines Consul General Zaldy Patron said there are many nurses from his country waiting to practise in Alberta.
“In the process, they will be able to provide the warm bodies and the front-line service that Alberta’s health-care system needs so much at this time.”