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Initiative draws attention to vital role of nurses

We Answer the Call theme of National Nursing Week.
There are 16,900 nurses working in the Saskatchewan health care system.

REGINA — National Nursing Week is May 9 to 15 and the Government of Saskatchewan is recognizing the dedication and commitment of 16,900 nurses across the province..

According to a press release, investments in this year's provincial budget are dedicated to training, recruitment and retention of nurses, as the province continues to manage COVID-19 and takes steps to support the health system's recovery from its effects.

Funding in the 2022-23 budget will add 150 new nursing training seats: 124 for Registered Nurses (RNs), 16 for Registered Psychiatric Nurses (RPNs) and 10 for Nurse Practitioners (NP) offered through the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Regina and Saskatchewan Polytechnic.

These seats are in addition to 690 RN, 40 NP and 56 RPN seats previously offered. There are also 231 licensed practical nurse training seats offered by Saskatchewan Polytechnic, regional colleges, Dumont Technical Institute and the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technology in various training locations across the province.

The budget also includes $1.5 million in funding for a recruitment incentive program, which the government says is as part of a virtual recruitment initiative to attract qualified candidates from the Philippines for hard-to-fill critical health sector positions. This initiative will include recruiting approximately 100 Registered Nurses.

The release also describes the development of an independent agency to support recruitment and retention of high priority health professions, including nursing. The agency will collaborate with the Ministries of Health, Advanced Education and Immigration and Career Training, health care employers and communities to recruit across the province and the country, as well as overseas.

The province also supports a number of retention programs dedicated to nurses.

The Student Loan Forgiveness Program encourages nurses and nurse practitioners to practice in rural or remote communities by forgiving up to $20,000 of their Saskatchewan Student Loans. More than 140 nurses benefited from this program in 2021-22. Since 2013, a total of 462 nurses have received over $1.2 million from the program.

The Graduate Retention Program (GRP) provides income tax credits of up to $20,000 to graduates of eligible post-secondary programs who live and work in Saskatchewan. Since 2008, just over 10,000 GRP certificates were provided to graduates of nursing programs. Nurses and Nurse Practitioners who are eligible for the Student Loan Forgiveness Program may also qualify for the Graduate Retention Program.

According to the latest available data in 2020, there are approximately 4,300 (34 per cent) more nurses practising in Saskatchewan than in 2007. This includes Registered Nurses, Registered Psychiatric Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses and Nurse Practitioners.

The theme of this year's National Nursing Week is "#WeAnswerTheCall," showcasing the many roles nurses play in a patient's health care journey.

May 12, the birthday of nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale, is designated as International Nurses Day.


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