UPEI nursing graduates have many options in 2021

This is a good time to be finishing nursing school. New graduates say they feel like they have their pick of jobs and Health PEI says it's doing what it can to keep them here. 

Graduation day is approaching for UPEI nursing students and job prospects are great

Janelle Sobey worked as a licensed practical nurse before going back to school, and will graduate from UPEI's School of Nursing in May. (Louise Vessey )

This year has brought grim health news on many fronts, but it is a great time to be finishing nursing school.

Gone are the days of having to leave Prince Edward Island to find full-time work. New graduates say they feel like they have their pick of jobs and Health PEI says it's doing what it can to keep them here.

Janelle Sobey, who went back to school after working as licensed practical nurse for many years, is graduating from the UPEI Faculty of Nursing with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in May. 

"It's a really good time to come out as a graduate because there are so many opportunities for work," she said. "The need is greater than I think it ever has been."

Sobey signed up for an incentive program with the province which gives $5,000 each to nurses when they commit to working for Health PEI for two years. She's also impressed with the organization's mentorship programs, which pairs up older staff and new hirees.

The combination worked for her: Sobey is looking forward to starting her "dream job," after accepting a position in the intensive care unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown. 

Most UPEI grads have gotten offers

"This year it seems we've all had really good success in finding jobs," said Michael MacKinnon, another new nursing grad from UPEI. "I'm pretty sure 90 per cent of our class has had job offers so far."

Michael MacKinnon, who is about to graduate from the UPEI nursing program, has accepted a job at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital's Unit 1. (Submitted by Michael MacKinnon)

He has been interested in the medical field since he was a kid, and has a number of family members who are nurses. 

MacKinnon also took advantage of the provincial incentive program, and will start work at the QEH's Unit 1, his first choice for a workplace. 

"Obviously that $5,000 signing bonus is a really good way to kickstart to help pay off some student loans," he said, adding that it feels pretty good to be in demand right from the start.

"I feel pretty excited to go into this career because I know there's no dead end," he said. 

Some do choose to leave

Despite having a job offer on P.E.I., UPEI nursing student Taylor Gavin has decided to work in Halifax after graduation. (Submitted by Taylor Gavin)
Graduating student Taylor Gavin has decided to work in Halifax, although he did have an attractive job offer in P.E.I.

He's dating someone in Nova Scotia and they want to be in the same province. 

"Right now, especially with COVID-19, there are so many jobs everywhere — Canada, U.S. wherever you want to go," he said. 

"The opportunities are endless." 

Gavin said he's noticed more incentives seem to be available if you work at a rural hospital; you might even get some help with your student loan debt. 

Wages can be an added reason to work off-Island. Gavin believes P.E.I is competitive, but he'll be making 90 cents more an hour in Halifax. 

He does hope to eventually be able to return to work as a nurse on P.E.I.

Interim dean expects many to stay

The interim dean of the Faculty of Nursing at UPEI said the school has seen an increased need for its graduating nurses both regionally and nationally. 

Jo-Ann MacDonald said that even though new grads have more choices now, she expects a high number of them to stay on the Island.

The interim dean of UPEI's Faculty of Nursing, Jo-Ann MacDonald, said job prospects are fantastic this year. (Laura Meader/CBC)

"If you want a job on P.E.I., you're going to get a job on P.E.I.," she said. 

MacDonald said new grads know the workload can be high, so programs like mentorships that help new nurses can be an appealing part of a job offer. 

'Lots of opportunities'

P.E.I's chief of nursing says the province has been focusing not just on recruiting but also putting together programs that will help the provincial system retain nurses down the road. 

"There's a number of new graduates that are being hired, upwards of 50 or so around now," Marion Dowling told CBC News in a recent interview. 

Dowling said the province is still receiving applications from graduates of registered nursing and licensed practical nursing programs — which is good to see given the province's challenges with filling vacancies over the years. 

P.E.I. Chief of Nursing Marion Dowling said there are many vacancies that need to be filled and 'lots of opportunity.' (Laura Meader/CBC)

She said there are lots of opportunities for nursing graduates on Prince Edward Island these days, no matter what areas they would prefer to work in. 

"We've been able to match the new grads … with some of their preferences," she said. 

"I think it is a really good time."

More from CBC P.E.I.


Laura Meader is a video journalist for CBC P.E.I.


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