B.C. is investing fresh dollars into getting retired nurses back to work and internationally-educated ones into the health-care system.
Premier David Eby announced Monday (Jan. 9) the province is working to reduce both the time and cost it takes for nurses to get registered, in an effort to fill the 5,264 vacancies currently seen across B.C.
The largest lump sum is $1.3 million, which will go to expediting the process for internationally-educated nurses (IENs). First announced in September, the fund aims to reduce registration wait times from up to three years to four to nine months. Eby didn’t offer a timeline on that goal, but said the new process will launch by the end of January.
Another major barrier IENs face is the cost of getting licensed in B.C.
Speaking at the news conference Monday, IEN Jennie Arceno said it cost her $40,000 for all the applications and exams required to become a registered nurse in B.C. Another IEN, Monique Wee, said it cost her $10,000 just to get her license converted. Both women had numerous years of experience under their belts prior to moving to Canada.
B.C. said going forward the province will cover IENs’ initial application and assessment fees, which cost more than $3,700. That’s on top of $12 million announced last April, which was intended to help cover up to $1,600 in individual costs for 1,500 IENs.
B.C. is offering even greater funds to convince B.C. nurses who have left the profession to return. Those nurses can apply for bursaries up to $10,000 to cover the cost of any additional education required to get back to work.
Eby said he believes they’ll have up to 2,000 new nurses working in B.C. in the next 90 days. He said that’s how many are currently making their way through the province’s registration process.
Several thousands more have expressed interest in working in B.C. but haven’t yet started the process, according to Eby. He said he’s hopeful the latest changes will make the difference in their decisions.
The BC Nurses’ Union president, Aman Grewal, expressed some relief at the change. She said she believes it will give nurses who are currently burned out a bit of respite to look forward to.
“I think this gives some hope and that’s what we’ve all been waiting for.”