Just weeks after introducing fast-tracked licensing for out-of-province and some international nurses, the Nova Scotia College of Nursing says it’s received more than 10,700 applications.
That compares to about 280 international applications last year — which was more than its three previous years combined.
“That doesn’t automatically translate into 10,000 nurses, but it sure does translate into a lot of nurses,” Nova Scotia nursing college CEO and registrar Sue Smith said.
Working with key partners like the health authority, the office of professional health care recruitment, immigration and others, an international nurse task force is working to recruit and retain.
That’s where NICHE steps in — Nova Scotia’s International Community of Health Workers Engagement program.
“It’s not just about bringing professionals in, it’s about helping them stay,” said Tara Sampalli, a senior director at Nova Scotia Health working on NICHE.
“This is the place where we’re creating the welcoming community. It’s not only about housing, it’s also about, you know, what about groceries? And the type of food that people would want to see. So, it’s really big picture thinking right here and it’s exciting. It’s also daunting.”
With the international interest that this first-in-Canada program has generated, other provinces are following suit.
“Alberta started shortly after us, very similar. They might have added a couple of other countries based upon their experience,” said Smith. “And we know that B.C., we know that some of our other Atlantic provinces, are looking at this and we are so happy to share our information, our policies, our procedures, how we got here.”
While promising, Nova Scotia Nurses Union President Janet Hazelton says onboarding challenges need to be considered.
“They’re going to require our nurses to orientate them and onboard them and get them used to their role here in Nova Scotia,” Hazelton said. “It’s going to be a significant amount of effort, but it’s not insurmountable.”
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Nurse mentors like Eunice Ojeabulu are essential in that.
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“Creating the right environment, first of all, is important,” said the registered nurse. “The right environment in the community, the right environment in the workplace. Making people feel safe, making people feel welcome is important for them to stay.”
Ojeabulu is originally from Nigeria and is able to relate to many of the applicants — most of whom are currently applying from Nigeria, followed by the Phillipines and India.
“We are doing Zoom sessions and I know Eunice and many of the nurse mentors have WhatsApp groups and others where they continue to encourage and support,” Sampalli said.
If these applicants do arrive and stay in the province, they’ll be providing much-needed relief.
“As hands come on board, it’s going to be a big relief for those who want to take vacation, for those who even think they want to retire that have not been able to retire,” said Ojeabulu.
Hazelton says Nova Scotia nurses are excited to have a solution in sight.
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