Political will needed to break licensing logjam so qualified, foreign nurses can work

January 14, 2022

By Vancouver Sun |

Like so many things related to the pandemic, had politicians heeded experts’ warnings, they could have mitigated the critical nursing shortage that every province and territory now faces.

In 2007, the Canadian Nurses Association, along with the Conference Board of Canada, predicted a dramatic shortfall in the number of health-care workers by 2022.

That diagnosis was based on projections of rapidly increasing demand not only from a growing population, but an aging one that would require more health services. And within that aging demographic were a large number of nurses, physicians and other health-care professionals.

Since then, COVID has resulted in burnout. There are now restrictions on part-timers working at more than one location. And some nurses and other professionals have left because of vaccine mandates.

By mid-2021, Statistics Canada reported 108,800 unfilled jobs in health care and social services. Of those, 22,400 were for registered nurses and psychiatric nurses.

In response to the crisis, Ontario announced Tuesday that it is working with the College of Nurses of Ontario to get as many internationally educated nurses (IENs) as possible working within weeks in hospitals, long-term care homes and other facilities under the supervision of other registered and qualified health-care providers. So far, 1,200 have expressed interest.

The B.C. Nurses’ Union described the situation here as “dire” even before COVID’s fourth wave and the arrival of Omicron. It also warned that nearly a third of its members expect to leave the profession by 2024.

But when asked Tuesday about the severe nursing shortage particularly in the North, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix offered no solutions, only empathy.

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