Nova Scotia is expanding the number of vacancies for nursing education at universities across the province.
The provincial government is financing 200 new seats, at an initial cost of $3.2 million, a price that will double annually once the seats are filled.
“There has always been a great deal of interest in the nursing profession and our nursing programs,” Health and Welfare Minister Michelle said Tuesday. “There will now be more capacity to educate and train the nurses we need in communities across the province.”
The news comes as the health system faces staffing shortages across the board, especially nursing.
Last month, the nurses’ union told Global News that it estimates vacancy rates are at their highest in 30 years, with Nova Scotia Health shorting nearly 2,000 nurses across the province.
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Last fall, Prime Minister Tim Houston announced that all trained nurses in Nova Scotia would receive a job offer. So far in 2022, more than 350 nurses have said “yes”.
But, as Global News reported in June, even if Nova Scotia hired all locally trained nursing graduates, it would not be enough to solve the shortage.
Tuesday’s announcement of increased educational opportunities is intended to ease the burden for years to come.
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In addition to the 200 nursing slots, the province is also adding 80 bachelor of science slots for nursing, including 26 slots at Dalhousie University, 26 at St. Francis Xavier University and 28 at Cape Breton University.
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Although some seats will be ready by May 2023, Dalhousie University President Deep Saini said the university will welcome more students this fall.
“Nurses and nursing professionals are critical to the health of our communities and the health sector,” Saini said in the statement.
“We are honored to welcome additional nursing students and nurse practitioners to Dalhousie this fall and look forward to continuing collaboration with the provincial government to support the health care needs of Nova Scotians.”
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According to the release, Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) will also add 120 practical nursing spaces.
The Nova Scotia Nurses Union said adding more positions is encouraging.
“Many young students are eager to be nurses, but are on a waiting list at various schools,” union president Janet Hazelton said in the statement.
“However, we need to take an immediate multipronged approach to solving the nursing shortage, including a national health human resources strategy and incentives to ensure our most experienced nurses stay on to mentor new graduates,” she said.
“We must work together to prevent further erosion of our health care system and a worsening of the nursing crisis.”
Once filled, the new positions will result in around 530 registered nurses and 370 practical nurses graduating each year in the province.
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