International nurse recruitment has Sask. student worried

Pamela Cowan, Leader-Post
REGINA, Canada — With the influx of international nurses to Saskatchewan, many nursing students worry that they won’t be able to find full-time employment when they graduate.
Jacob Kyrejto, a University of Saskatchewan nursing student, realizes the province has a nursing shortage and he doesn’t disagree with offering individuals from other nations the opportunity to come to Canada. But the recent recruitment of nearly 300 Filipino nurses to Saskatchewan concerns him.

In a lengthy letter to the premier, members of parliament and members of the legislative assembly as well as provincial health organizations, Kyrejto writes: “We simply believe that health regions need to think about the people at home before they begin to look for employment prospects abroad.”

Since about 300 nurses graduate in Saskatchewan yearly, the student nurse believes that’s enough to fulfill Premier Brad Wall’s commitment to increase nurses by 800 over his four-year term.

Kyrejto writes: “At no time has the province or any other health regions publicly explained how this new hiring will affect current nursing students, the nurses of the future. This leaves us asking, ‘Has the government of Saskatchewan turned its back on nursing students?’ ”
Ron Knaus, executive director of the workforce planning branch with Saskatchewan Health, said that given the current nursing shortage and the demographics of the profession, recruiting 300 nurses from outside Canada won’t affect new graduates’ ability to find full-time work.
“About 40 per cent of our nursing workforce, which is over 9,000 nurses, are over the age of 50,” Knaus said. “Even though the number of nursing seats have increased over the last little while and there is a commitment to add more seats, we will have a number of nurses who will be eligible to retire. And if they start retiring before the age of 60, which is a possibility, we will need more than the 800 nurses that were mentioned as part of government’s election commitment.”

Besides the need to replace retiring nurses, he said vacancies are created when nurses take maternity leave or decide to work part time.

“Going to the Philippines was one way we’re trying to address some of the shorter-term needs and certainly the longer term is building that self-sufficiency,” Knaus said.

Kyrejto said students want a written guarantee of full-time permanent employment in an area of their choice upon graduation.

Knaus said that health regions must work within the collective agreement, but in some instances supernumerary positions are offered.

“That would allow (regions) to offer a position to a new grad without having to post it in an open competition where a nurse may have more seniority can bid into it,” Knaus said.

Trevor Hall, manager of employment services with the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region, said the region has lots of full-time work for nursing grads.

“Bringing in the Philippine nurses will certainly assist in filling some of the vacancies that have sat vacant for a period of time but we’ve made a commitment to find full-time work for any of the grads coming out of the local schools,” Hall said. “It may or may not be their first choice but we’ll certainly work with students where we can to try and get them into a place where they’re most interested.”

He urges nursing graduates who are having difficulty finding full-time employment to call the RQHR at 766-5208. pcowan@leaderpost.canwest.com

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