Officials say improved working conditions could help nurse retention

Many hospitals in Nova Scotia are struggling with nursing staff shortages.  (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - photo credit)

Many hospitals in Nova Scotia are struggling with nursing staff shortages. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press – photo credit)

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston says improved working conditions are a factor, as is salary, in attracting and retaining more nurses.

“We will never be the best-paid jurisdiction,” the prime minister told reporters after a cabinet meeting on Thursday.

“That’s just reality.”

As in many provinces, the reality of Nova Scotia has also led to an increasing reliance on traveling nurses in understaffed hospitals and long-term care homes. Nurses employed by travel services are paid far better than those employed by the province.

In nursing homes, the use of traveling nurses has proven itself. Senior Citizens and Long-Term Care Secretary Barb Adams told reporters that as of this week there are enough staff for all but two of the province’s long-term care beds to be open, a substantial improvement from 16 months ago when 500 beds were closed due to staff shortages.

But that progress comes at a price: $45 million for the traveling nurses in long-term care homes. Millions more have been spent on traveling nurses in emergency rooms and other parts of the healthcare system over the years.

Health Secretary Michelle Thompson said work is underway on a new staff assessment and health workforce plan, but in the meantime the priority is to fill as many vacancies as possible.



Thompson said the need shouldn’t surprise anyone.

“We knew this moment would come,” she told reporters.

“I was in long-term care for six years before I was elected. This is not new news. You know, we’ve had staffing issues for a very long time. We knew that long-term care waiting lists were significant and no action was taken.”

The Tories cite measures such as a recent pay rise for nursing assistants, free tuition for those taking CCA training programs, expanded practice areas for nurses and job offers for anyone completing a nursing school program in Nova Scotia as examples of steps they are taking take to help.

Thompson said she believes all of this can ultimately help reduce dependency on traveling nurses, but she anticipates it will take two to four years for things to start to stabilize.



Opposition leaders say reducing the use of traveling nurses will require a coordinated effort and an improvement in working conditions.

Liberal leader Zach Churchill said provinces across the country are relying more on travel nursing services, in what he called a “race to the bottom”.

Churchill said all Prime Ministers must come together to find a solution.

“We are in a situation where provinces are trying to drain each other’s own labor at a time when we need it all, and all provinces will be paying double for exactly the same work and paying a middleman to do it.” to facilitate. “



NDP director Claudia Chender said the government needs to find a way to make full-time work in Nova Scotia a more attractive option than working for a travel nursing service.

“A lot of the people who are travel nurses aren’t necessarily attracted to it because of the compensation,” she told reporters.

Chender said the government must address long-standing workplace concerns that people are understaffed, unable to take breaks during shifts or unable to take vacations.



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