Internationally educated nurses who want in work in BC and those hoping to return to the profession will soon be eligible for financial supports from the province, as the government works to address burnout and retention in the health-care system.
Those with training outside Canada can have their assessment and application fees – which cost upwards of $3,700 – paid up front by the province instead of waiting to be reimbursed. Nurses looking to return to practice can get thousands of dollars in bursaries that don’t need to be paid back.
During an event at Langara College, Premier David Eby told reporters hiring and training more nurses was a key part of his plan to address health-care issues. He said relief could be felt quickly.
“I understand there will be nurses potentially on the ground within 90 days of this announcement thanks to these changes,” he added.
The premier didn’t say how many nurses are expected to take advantage of the supports. Eby did say 2,000 are in the application stage, and another 5,000 have expressed interest in coming to BC.
Shirley Bond, the Liberal critic for health care, said the premier’s plan was short on specifics and metrics.
“I would be very surprised if we see hundreds of new nurses in 90 days so we’ll wait and see how this is actually delivered,” she told CTV News.
The BC Nurses’ Union said the announcement gives members hope. Union president Aman Grewal said last spring there were more than 5,000 nursing positions available in the province – and that in eight years, another 26,000 openings will need to be filled.
“Throughout the pandemic, and before that the opioid crisis … nurses were looking for relief, for work-life balance,” Grewal said at Monday’s event.
Last year, the province announced other measures to make it cheaper and easier for internationally educated nurses to practice in BC The government is providing $1.3 million to streamline the licensing process for those nurses, which Eby said would see candidates obtain their registration in months instead of. years.
“Right now, candidates in this scenario are waiting three years to be granted registration,” Eby said. “Our goal is to bring it down, with these reforms, to between four and nine months.”