It can cost internationally-educated nurses (IENs) up to $10,000 in assessment and registration fees when they try to register in New Brunswick.
On Friday, the provincial government announced it would cover some of these costs for up to 300 IENs a year for five years.
Health Minister Bruce Fitch said the province doesn’t have a precise amount of how much this will cost as it will depend on how many nurses apply.
“It may differ from place to place, but it’s a five-year commitment so it’s in the tens of millions dollars,” he said.
Elizabeth Princewill-Sanni, who immigrated to the province from Nigeria in hopes of becoming a registered nurse, called the announcement a “gamechanger.”
“I like that they have put into consideration what this will cost us and how it will affect us, not just financially but mentally to try to get registered again, because we’re already registered in our home countries,” she said.
She currently works as a patient care attendant in Moncton Hospital’s oncology department.
“I start my bridging on Monday and after that I will be writing the NCLEX (nursing exam) which certifies me to work as a nurse in New Brunswick and Canada,” she said.
She loves living in New Brunswick, as she considers it a great place to raise her children.
She said they particularly like playing in Moncton’s Centennial Park, and how the small size of the city makes it easy to get around.
Horizon Health Interim President and CEO Margaret Melanson said the health networks had contracted with a third party in order to help IENs find housing in New Brunswick’s challenging housing market.
“These people often don’t know where to turn where they’re new to the country,” Melanson said.
“Having someone to help them directly to make those contacts is often what makes the advantage,” she said.
New Brunswick Nurses Union President Paula Doucet said the funding announcement was a step in the right direction in an interview on Friday, while noting IENs need more than just financial support.
“If they’re set up in a rural area, we have to make sure there are multicultural associations involved, and other partners within the communities otherwise some of these nurses will feel very isolated,” she said.
She said the government needs to invest in retaining it’s existing nursing workforce through means like retention bonuses, or else it’s setting up newly recruited IENs to fail.
She said IENs and new domestic graduates need the mentorship of experienced New Brunswick nurses in order to better integrate into the health system.
“This government has put every egg that they’ve collected into the basket of recruitment and they’ve left nothing and they’ve starved the nurses when it comes to retention and they’ve gotta turn that around,” she said.