Province announces expansion of Loan Forgiveness Program for nurses

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Fourth year University of Saskatchewan nursing student Precious Alozie spoke at the announcement of the expansion of the Saskatchewan Loan Forgiveness for Nurses and Nurse Practitioners at the University of Saskatchewan Prince Albert campus on Friday.

The provincial government announced plans to expand the Saskatchewan Loan Forgiveness for Nurses and Nurse Practitioners program to five mid-sized communities on Friday.

Nurses and nurse practitioners who have started employment in Prince Albert, Moose Jaw, Swift Current, Yorkton, and the Battlefords on or after January 1, 2023, may eligible to receive up to $20,000 of Saskatchewan student loan debt forgiveness. Previously, the option was only available to students working in a designated rural or remote community of less than 10,000 people.

Precious Alozie, a four-year registered nursing student at the Prince Albert USask campus, said she wanted to study closer to home and the new program will help her by providing more options.

“I don’t have a vehicle of my own,” she said. “This loan forgiveness program will help me save towards that so I don’t have to think about my getting to work.”

Alozie just finished her community clinical at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary. She said she likes the diverse opportunities being a nurse provides, but said it could be difficult with a student loan hanging over her head. This program expansion will change that.

“I’m able to save and I’m also able to stay back here with family and friends not thinking of going to other rural areas just to take the opportunity,” she explained.

Jeda Jones is a second-year practical nursing student from Rosthern who commutes to Prince Albert to study at Sask Polytech. She wants to work in a rural community like her hometown, and said this program expansion will make that more likely.

“It just makes it easier to stay in my hometown or wanting to work after graduating,” she explained. “It’s also a big relief financially, knowing that I’ll be able to afford certain things once I’m done school and not have so much debt.”

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Following the announcement of the expansion of the Saskatchewan Loan Forgiveness for Nurses and Nurse Practitioners at the University of Saskatchewan Prince Albert campus on Friday there was a tour of the campus Simulation Lab for the College of Nursing.

“(The commute) does get quite expensive with gas and everything like that, and I would like to stay in Rosthern or Prince Albert as well after I’m done,” she added.

Jones did her practicum at the Victoria Hospital. She said that opened her eyes to the work going on there.

“I liked the hospital and like hearing that they’re getting the expansion as well,” she said. “It’s very exciting to know that I can add Prince Albert as another place to work.

Jones said she hopes that the loan program helps rural communities attract and retain more nurses.

“I hope it does help because I worked in healthcare as a CCA as well before going to school and we are very short-staffed,” she explained. “Even in the clinical I can see how short-staffed they are. I just hope that a lot more people will take advantage of the schooling and maybe want to stay and work in these places.”

Alozie said that she decided to become a nurse because she had a terrible experience in the Emergency Room when she had abdominal pain and her friends had similar experiences.

She already has a sociology degree and decided to go back to school to study nursing and be a change agent after her bad experience.

“We can’t always have people talking saying bad things about nurses while the profession is to take care of people,” she said. “That’s generally what nursing is about, caring for people and you’re doing (the) opposite of what the profession talks about. That’s why I decided to go back to school, study nursing and I hope one day I will be this change they’re talking about.”

Jones wanted a career that could help people and practical nursing appealed to her because it was not a four-year program.

“It was two years and although it is tough, I like the idea that I can do my schooling in two years and start working and start a career,” Jones said.

Prince Albert Northcote MLA Alana Ross made the program expansion announcement at the University of Saskatchewan Prince Albert campus on Friday.

Ross said that the announcement was a great thing for Prince Albert and for recruiting nurses.

“There’s wonderful opportunities in nursing and with the expansion of the hospital here, we’re going to be looking for so many nurses,” she said. “This is going to help (the hospital) to recruit.”

Ross, who worked in nursing before becoming an MLA, said that she had a nurse come to her office to chat and ask why the program was not offered in Prince Albert. Saskatoon and Regina are not eligible.

“They’re a bigger place than (Prince Albert),” Ross said. “They’re more appealing. So many more people would come here if you had that program here. The minister got right on it, and here we are today.”

“We have some wonderful young people in the nursing programs where I think nursing is in good hands,” Ross said.

This initiative supports the province’s Health Human Resources Action Plan by providing incentives to work in areas of the province with high recruitment needs.

Since the program began in 2013, more than 550 nurses have received nearly $1.7 million in student loan forgiveness.

Nursing graduates may also be eligible for various financial support to help fund their education and connect them to careers in Saskatchewan’s health system. Supports include Clinical Placement Bursaries, the Saskatchewan Rural and Remote Recruitment Incentive, the Graduate Retention Program and Saskatchewan Student Aid.

Along with Jones, Alozie and Ross, Dr. Shithokozile Maposa of the University of Saskatchewan College of Nursing also spoke.

Ross said that all of these programs could help address shortages and make nursing recruiting more appealing. 

We need every one of our nurses to serve the needs of residents across Saskatchewan, through their skill, their leadership and their compassion,” Advanced Education Minster Gordon Wyant said in a release. “This expansion will help with recruitment and retention efforts and is a positive step forward in addressing the need for more nurses in our communities.”