Quebec hospitals step up nurse recruitment in France

The Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal is heading overseas in an effort to find 70 nurse practitioners to fill voids at the brand new hospital.

Staffing shortages widespread as province struggles to meet demand

The CHUM is returning to France at the end of the month to recruit 70 more nurse practitioners. (Radio-Canada)

At least five Quebec hospitals, including the brand new Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM), are again looking to France to help alleviate the nursing shortage.

The CHUM alone is looking to recruit 500 nurses in the coming years and is concentrating some of its efforts on a recruitment blitz in France at the end of May.

The head of the CHUM, Fabrice Brunet, said the shortage could cause delays in opening up some departments at the new hospital.

"It's true, but it's the case in all hospitals," he said of the staffing situation.

Brunet said the hospital has an urgent need for 100 nurses, but ultimately they would like to hire up to 500.

Training similar to Quebec

Last fall, 50 French nurses were hired to work in Quebec, and more than half of them went to the CHUM.

"It's a hospital that has hyperspecialities and all the technological innovations. So for me, it's perfect," said Julie Porte, a nurse from Lyon who is starting her training at the hospital.

Renée Descôteaux, the head of nursing at the CHUM, said French nurses receive similar training to those in universities here in Quebec.

At the CHUM, the French nurses first complete a 75-day internship, the first part of which they are paired up to help with orientation.

"After that, we're on our own and we have 30 days to prove ourselves," said Albin Néris, a nurse originally from France who has worked at the CHUM for four years.

According to data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, nurses in France earn an average $16,000 less a year than those doing the same job in Canada. The cost of living is also considerably less in Montreal than in major cities in France. 

The province has been struggling to recruit and retain nurses as more and more unions and nurses themselves step forward to denounce stressful working conditions in the Quebec health care system.

Health Minister Gaétan Barrette has said the government will hire more nurses to help with the shortage, but the problem remains that nurses just aren't applying for the jobs.

The unions have said that most of the positions posted are part time and the difficult working conditions don't make them attractive opportunities for candidates.

The recruitment teams at the CHUM and several other Quebec health care institutions are heading back to France at the end of the month to look for more nurse practitioners to hire.

Based on a report by Radio-Canada's David Gentile


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