New Brunswick nursing strategy prescribes immigrant RNs for growing labour shortage

Stephen Smith
Published: July 30, 2019

Pour lire cet article en français, cliquez ici.

Internationally trained nurses will be required to address a looming shortage in New Brunswick's health-care system, a new government report says. 

The recruitment of internationally educated nurses (IENs) is one of four so-called "action items" that the province's Nursing Resource Strategy says are needed to meet the accelerating demand for health services and long-term care among New Brunswickers.

The document notes that the province's population is ageing faster than any other jurisdiction in Canada, prompting what it calls a "critical demographic situation."

"New Brunswick has one of Canada's oldest populations and is ageing at a greater rate than other jurisdictions," it notes. "New Brunswick has the highest percentage of population over 65 years of age when compared to the rest of Canada."

The province's nurses are not exempt from this trend — 41 per cent of registered nurses (RNs) in New Brunswick are 50 years of age or older, the report says.

Combined with declining enrolment in the province's bachelor of nursing programs and an attrition rate of 30 per cent for nursing students, the province's ministry of health projects a shortage of at least 130 registered nurses (RNs) each year over the next 10 years.

"This means that by 2028 there could be a deficit of approximately 1,300 RNs in the New Brunswick health-care system," the document notes.

During this same period, it is estimated that 4,376 RN jobs will open.

"The province finds itself at a crossroads where the number of nurses in the workforce is decreasing and the demand for their services keeps increasing."

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Internationally educated nurses to the rescue

Among the four key remedies identified is the active recruitment of IENs from countries identified as having "nursing education programs with similar nursing professional standards, competencies, and credentials" to New Brunswick.

Doing so, the document says, will increase the odds of immigrant nurses meeting the province's registration requirements.

As to these requirements, the government calls for an examination "to identify any barriers, areas for improvement or efficiencies" for IENs and to improve the application process.

The strategy also recommends the establishment of a program that would help IENs find work in New Brunswick's health-care sector while their applications for registration are in progress "to allow for a positive integration into the workforce."

Among the strategy's other action items are a process for offering permanent employment (full-time and part-time) to New Brunswick graduates and RNs recruited from other provinces or countries and the possibility of a signing bonus in exchange for a three-year commitment to serve in rural areas of the province.

"Nurses play a significant role in the provision of high-quality care in an efficient, patient-centric health-care system," New Brunswick's Health Minister, Hugh J. Flemming, said in a statement. "We are going to continue to face a shortage of nurses unless we take action now to ensure we have enough nurses to serve our population."

“The Nurses Association of New Brunswick supports any effort to address the nursing shortage and will continue to participate on the nursing resource strategy, as we anticipate immediate action to further implement the plan,” added association president Maureen Wallace.

New Brunswick's Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister, Trevor Holder, said a number of the strategy’s action items "are already underway."

No details were mentioned as to how IENs may be selected or what immigration programs would be used to recruit them.

Earlier this week, the New Brunswick Provincial Nominee Program (NBPNP) announced that it will conduct occasional searches of the federal Express Entry pool for skilled candidates who meet the province's labour.

These searches will be conducted through the NBPNP's Express Entry-linked New Brunswick Labour Market Stream.

Find out if you are eligible to enter the Express Entry pool

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