Health Minister Paul Merriman and Advanced Education Minister Gene Makowsky were among those those who thanked Saskatchewan’s 16,900 nurses for their dedication and commitment on National Nursing Week.
Both ministers said Saskatchewan nurses worked long hours over the past two years, and desserved the province’s gratitude.
“This week we celebrate nurses in our province for their many contributions to the health and well-being of residents, especially through the past two years,” Merriman said in a press release.
“I want to thank them for answering the call. Along with other health care providers, they are the foundation of our health system.”
Merriman said the province made significant investments in the provincial budget dedicated to training, recruitment and retention of nurses, as the province continues to try and support the health system’s recovery from COVID-19.
Merriman said new funding in the 2022-23 budget will add 150 new nursing training seats: 124 for Registered Nurses (RNs), 16 for Registered Psychiatric Nurses (RPNs) and 10 for Nurse Practitioners (NP) offered through the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Regina and Saskatchewan Polytechnic.
Advanced Education Minister Gene Makowsky thanked nurses for their dedication, but said the people who train them deserve just as much gratitude.
“Thank you to everyone who is part of the training for our future human health resource professionals for all of your dedication,” Makowsky said in a press release. “Expanding nurse training seats helps ensure post-secondary programs are aligned with the current and future needs of our province.”
Saskatchewan supports 690 RN seats, 40 NP seats, and 56 RPN seats. These are in addition to the 150 new nursing positions.
There are also 231 licensed practical nurse training seats offered by Saskatchewan Polytechnic, regional colleges, Dumont Technical Institute, and the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technology in various training locations across the province.
This year’s budget also includes $1.5 million in new one-time funding for a recruitment incentive program, as part of a virtual recruitment initiative to attract qualified candidates from the Philippines for hard to fill critical health sector positions. This initiative will include recruiting approximately 100 Registered Nurses.
“We have more nurses practising in the province than any other time in history, however we recognize that there is more work to do,” Mental Health and Addictions, Seniors and Rural and Remote Health Minister Everett Hindley said.
“That’s why we have a four-point plan to recruit, train, incentivize and retain health care workers to help get our system back on track.”
To support recruitment and retention of high priority health professions, including nursing, a new, independent agency will be established this year. The agency will collaborate with the Ministries of Health, Advanced Education and Immigration and Career Training, health care employers and communities to actively recruit across the province and the country, as well as overseas.
The province also supports a number of retention programs dedicated to nurses.
The Student Loan Forgiveness Program encourages nurses and nurse practitioners to practice in rural or remote communities by forgiving up to $20,000 of their Saskatchewan Student Loans. Over 140 nurses benefited from this program in 2021-22. Since 2013, a total of 462 nurses have received over $1.2 million from the program.
The Graduate Retention Program (GRP) provides income tax credits of up to $20,000 to graduates of eligible post-secondary programs who live and work in Saskatchewan. Since 2008, just over 10,000 GRP certificates were provided to graduates of nursing programs. Nurses and Nurse Practitioners who are eligible for the Student Loan Forgiveness Program may also qualify for the Graduate Retention Program.
According to the latest available data in 2020, there are approximately 4,300 (34 per cent) more nurses practising in Saskatchewan than in 2007. This includes Registered Nurses, Registered Psychiatric Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses and Nurse Practitioners.
Nurses are being recognized during National Nursing Week, May 9 to 15. The theme of this year’s National Nursing Week is “#WeAnswerTheCall,” showcasing the many roles that nurses play in a patient’s health care journey.
May 12, the birthday of nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale, is designated as International Nurses Day.