There’s a shortage of nursing staff in Saskatchewan, and this has resulted in the province having one of the longest surgical wait times in Canada, regular closures of tertiary emergency rooms, and other regional setbacks such as a diminished children’s hospital capacity.
The shortage was made public in one instance at an Oct. 25 lunch-hour rally in Regina’s Wascana Park. At the rally, The Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN) organized a march from the Legislature Building to the bandstand in Wascana Park to put pressure on the government to take action regarding the crisis.
The union claimed that over 80 percent of respondents in a survey involving more than 1,600 nurses said they knew of a time when patients were at risk due to staff shortages.
On Nov. 24, the Government of Saskatchewan announced the expansion of the Saskatchewan Loan Forgiveness program for nurses and nurse practitioners in the province. In the expansion, five mid-sized communities have been included, which involves Moose Jaw, along with Prince Albert, Swift Current, Yorkton, and The Battlefords.
“We need every one of our nurses to serve the needs of residents across Saskatchewan, through their skill, their leadership, and their compassion,” declared Advanced Education Minister Gordon Wyant. “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.”
The initiative supports Saskatchewan’s Health Human Resources Action Plan. The plan aims to help stabilize the staffing situation in rural and remote areas of the province by providing greater incentives to work in areas with higher recruitment needs and by adding hundreds of new positions.
A condition of the Saskatchewan Rural and Remote Recruitment Incentive is to see between $30,000 and $50,000 provided to new graduates and be paid over a three-year period. The incentive is available to new Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) or affiliated employees in nine high-priority positions across 54 rural and remote locations. According to the provincial government, this is one of the most generous incentive programs offered in the country.
Nursing graduates may also be eligible for a variety of financial supports to help with their education and to connect them to careers in Saskatchewan’s healthcare system. These supports include clinical placement bursaries along with the Graduate Retention Program and Saskatchewan Student Aid.
According to the provincial government, over 550 nurses have received nearly $1.7 million in student loan debt forgiveness since the start of the original program in 2013.
“If it weren’t for the support of student loans, attending Sask. Polytechnic wouldn’t have been possible,” said Sask. Polytech second-year nursing student Jeda Jones-Hancock. “Knowing I'll have less debt after I graduate eases the burden of academic and financial stress as I complete my studies.”
Nurses and nurse practitioners who started employment in the newly designated communities before or after Jan. 1, 2023, may also be eligible to receive up to $20,000 of student loan debt forgiveness.
To learn more about the Saskatchewan Student Loan Forgiveness program for nurses and nurse practitioners, visit Saskatchewan.ca. On the site, follow ‘residents and visitors,’ ‘education and learning,’ ‘Saskatchewan student aid,’ and finally ‘loan forgiveness for nurses and nurse practitioners.’
For more information specific to health care incentives and career opportunities in the province, visit Saskatchwan.ca/hhr.
To see if you’re eligible for the Saskatchewan Rural and Remote Recruitment Incentive, visit Saskatchewan.ca or the shortened link at https://tinyurl.com/zeytktx8. You can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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