New Brunswick

Labour minister says nursing strategy is coming, but 'there's no silver bullet'

New Brunswick's minister of post-secondary education, training and labour says a 10-year strategy to deal with the province's nursing shortage will be announced in the next few weeks.

Trevor Holder says province will need 1,300 new nurses in next 10 years

Trevor Holder, the minister of post-secondary education, training and labour, says government is working with universities, nursing groups and health authorities to make sure New Brunswick has the 1,300 new nurses it will need over the next 10 years. (Radio-Canada)

New Brunswick's minister of post-secondary education, training and labour says a 10-year strategy to deal with the province's nursing shortage will be announced in the next few weeks. 

Holder says the new strategy, which is being developed with the Department of Health, will outline where New Brunswick needs to be in terms of nurses over the next decade.

"The bottom line here is we have a shortage, there's no silver bullet fix to this," he said Tuesday. 

Holder said he expects the province will need 1,300 new nurses over the next 10 years, based on the number of nurses leaving and the number of nursing students who are graduating.  

Cuts to nursing programs

In April, New Brunswick's provincial government announced it was cutting $8.7 million from funding for nursing programs.

The universities have said much of that funding was being used to cover the cost of clinical training, and the cut would have serious repercussions for current students.

But Holder defended the cut, saying the programs weren't creating new seats for students.

The province has said two nursing-seat purchase agreements were signed with University of New Brunswick and the University of Moncton in 2005-2006.

The agreements, which expired March 31, were to fund 95 additional nursing seats a year — 57 at UNB and 38 at Moncton.

Trevor Holder is New Brunswick's minister of post-secondary education, training and labour. He says the program to help licensed practical nurses become registered nurses is just one way to get more nurses working in New Brunswick. 13:37

"All we were doing is we were simply saying that the strategy that we had in place was not training nurses and it was time to stop just shovelling money out the door, quite frankly, and not getting the results that we need," he said.

Holder said universities now won't receive provincial funding to increase the number of nursing graduates until after the first full-year of training and the seats are filled. This will give the province a chance to monitor and see whether it should build on the program.

"That way we're funding after the seats are filled and that's the kind of strategy we want to have going forward," he said.

CBC News has asked both the University of New Brunswick and the University of Moncton for an interview and is waiting for a response.

Program for LPNs

Holder reiterated plans to bring in a bachelor of nursing bridge program for licensed practical nurses, or LPNs. But he said the program at the University of New Brunswick's Saint John campus to help LPNs become registered nurses is just a first step to help with the shortage.

"The reality is we have a demand for RNs right now and one of the quickest ways in the short-term is to train a number of LPNs through a bridging program to take the two years after that to become RNs," he said.

"That is one of the quickest ways to train more nurses in our province." 

The funding will support 24 LPNs in the program starting in January 2020, with a May 2022 graduation. The province is providing up to $500,000 for the program. 

"We are excited that UNB is one of the partners collaborating with the province to address the nursing shortage in New Brunswick with a new nursing strategy," Dr. Petra Hauf, vice-president Saint John, said in a statement Tuesday.

In 2019, some hospital units had to close because of New Brunswick's shortage of nurses. (CBC)

Holder said government has been working with universities, nursing groups and health authorities on the nursing strategy.

In 2019, some hospital units were forced to close because of the nurse shortage.

As a result, Holder said, the province is looking to bring in more nurses from outside the province, including New England states.

Meanwhile Bangor University in Wales opened its three-year bachelor of nursing program to Canadian applicants this year. 

The decision was made after university officials heard about New Brunswick's nursing shortage and funding cuts to nursing programs.

Like New Brunswick, the United Kingdom also has a nursing shortage.

About the Author

Elizabeth Fraser

Reporter/Editor

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

With files from Information Morning Moncton

Comments

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.