New Brunswick

Horizon Health worries about losing nursing grads to perception it isn't hiring

A vice-president at Horizon Health is worried a perception is developing that the network isn't hiring any permanent full-time nurses.

At the beginning of August, Horizon Health Network was looking to fill 119 permanent full-time jobs.

The New Brunswick government says it wants to add 130 nurses a year to the system over the next 10 years under a strategy to attack the nursing shortage. (Maria Jose Burgos/CBC)

A vice-president at Horizon Health is worried about a perception that the network isn't hiring any permanent full-time nurses.

Geri Geldart was responding Monday to complaints last week from two young nurses who left the province for work, despite a growing nursing shortage in the province.

"We don't want to lead people to apply elsewhere if they thought there were no opportunities with us," said Geldart, a registered nurse who is vice-president clinical and chief of nursing services at Horizon Health.

At the beginning of August, she said, Horizon was looking to fill about 340 nursing positions, including 119 permanent full-time jobs.

The perception that people can't get employment is probably driven a lot by the Fredericton experience, where there are a large number of casuals already in the system,- Geri Geldart, Horizon Health

Those positions will be offered to union members first, she said.

"Hopefully, some of the folks that are within our current membership who have casual employment, they'll be successful in getting a permanent position as a result of those vacancies," she said.

If not, the jobs will be offered to external candidates.

Only 2 hired in Fredericton

Geldart acknowledged it can be difficult for new nurses to find permanent full-time jobs if they only want to work in a particular area, but this problem mostly applies to Fredericton. 

Horizon recently hired 54 permanent full-time positions from the latest graduating class: 15 in Moncton, 37 in Saint John and two in Fredericton. 

Last week, Health Minister Ted Flemming said new graduates aren't willing to work in rural areas,

"It's not that there are no jobs … there may be a particular expectation as to location," Flemming said in an interview with Information Morning Fredericton.

"Many people who take their education in Fredericton or Moncton, they want to stay in that city as opposed to [going] elsewhere." 

Grads take casual jobs in capital

Geldart admitted that fewer permanent full-time jobs have been available in recent years in the Fredericton area.

"That is probably because Fredericton has had several years of experience where new grads chose to stay in Fredericton and take casual employment because they wanted to be in this particular location," she said. 

"And they were prepared to come on as casuals and wait for opportunities to come up. So there's a large cohort of existing casual employees in Fredericton who are waiting for permanent positions."

Although some casuals might work full time, others only work one day a week. Casual employees receive a 14 per cent premium on top of their hourly rate in lieu of a benefits package.

Landing a full-time job in Fredericton

Off hand, Geldart didn't know how many casuals were working at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital. 

"The perception that people can't get employment is probably driven a lot by the Fredericton experience, where there are a large number of casuals already in the system," she said. 

Trevor Holder, the minister of post-secondary education, training and labour, and Health Minister Ted Flemming announced a 10-year nurse resource strategy earlier this summer. (Hadeel Ibrahim/CBC)

"But that's not our scenario in places like Saint John, and obviously in our rural areas we have needs as well."   

This year, a number of hospital units across the province have closed down because of a shortage of nurses. 

Trying new staffing models

Traditionally, Geldart said, Horizon Health has relied on a casual workforce but has started experimenting with a relief team model, which includes permanent full-time positions.

"Those are nurses who are hired, they're scheduled to work shifts, but they don't necessarily know what unit they're going to work on that particular day," she said.

"They will go where ever there is a need." 

Over the last year, she said, Horizon has created more than 100 permanent full-time relief positions, and the health authority is hoping to create more of those positions. 

"Fredericton will probably be the area we look at next for that," she said. 

The province has about 8,000 nurses, but according to the New Brunswick Nurses Association, about 2,300 will be eligible to retire over the next five years. 

Geri Geldart is the Chief Nursing Officer and Vice-President of Clinical Services at Horizon Health Network. 8:55

Earlier this month, the New Brunswick government said it was aiming to add 130 nurses a year over the next 10 years under a strategy to attack the nursing shortage.

The strategy focuses on attracting and accommodating internationally trained nurses and providing better education opportunities for students at home.

About the Author

Elizabeth Fraser


Elizabeth Fraser is a reporter/editor with CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. She's originally from Manitoba. Story tip?

With files from Information Morning Fredericton


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.