Canada

The pilot will pay LPNs and PSWs in New Brunswick to improve nursing skills

Trevor Holder, Secretary of State for Post-Secondary Education, Training and Employment, on Friday announced a new program designed to help care home workers improve their skills.  (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC - photo credit)

Trevor Holder, Secretary of State for Post-Secondary Education, Training and Employment, on Friday announced a new program designed to help care home workers improve their skills. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC – photo credit)

Personal attendants and licensed practical nurses can now upgrade their qualifications without leaving their current jobs.

A new pilot program allows them to study part-time while continuing to earn full-time wages and pay no tuition.

The $13.3 million program, funded through an agreement with the federal government, was announced in Saint John on Friday. It will give 208 people the opportunity to train at Saint John and Bathurst.

Trevor Holder, Secretary of State for Post-Secondary Education, Training and Work, said the scheme would be reassessed after two years to ensure it was working as it should. At least two cohorts, one this fall and one next fall, will graduate whether or not the program is renewed, he said.

“That’s the first step,” Holder said. “Right now we just want to get it out there in conjunction with all the other things we’re doing on the care front and fix the issues and then hopefully get back to the point where we can expand it beyond that.”

Eligible workers are likely already employed in long-term care facilities and nursing homes, he said. In two or three years, personal assistants can advance to licensed practical nurses, and licensed practical nurses can become registered nurses.

Tuition will be covered at New Brunswick Community College, Coll├Ęge communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick, University of Moncton and University of New Brunswick, and there will be no salary cuts during the course. Employees in the program also retain their benefits, Holder said.

The province, like many other parts of the country, is struggling with a shortage of nurses. New Brunswick has more than 1,000 nursing vacancies, according to data from Horizon Health Network.

This pilot program is the latest of several programs announced to increase university nursing positions and encourage nurses to relocate to the province. Some incentives include $10,000 in signing bonuses and up to $5,000 in relocation expenses.

Once they graduate, they must work in the province for the same amount of time it took them to graduate — two or three years, depending on the program, Holder said.

Brenda Kinney, Horizon Health’s vice president and chief nursing officer, said the health agency will work to pad workers as they train. She said Horizon and the province are also recruiting licensed practical nurses and personal assistants to fill the shortage.

“[We’re] We will work with everyone, depending on the area they work in, to develop the schedule that works best for them so we can accommodate that educational component,” Kinney said.

Health Secretary Bruce Fitch said the pilot project was limited. There will be 28 places for licensed practical nurses and 28 for personal assistants at Saint John and 24 places for each position at Bathurst this autumn and the same number in autumn 2024.

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