EDMONTON — Alberta nursing students who are preparing to graduate with very unhealthy job prospects showed their frustration Thursday by holding a protest rally in front of the legislature.
Most of the 60 protesters were fourth-year registered nursing students who said right now their best chance of getting a job will be in neighbouring Saskatchewan or elsewhere in Canada.
“The public has a right to know that they’re funding nurses to work elsewhere,” said Quinn Grundy, a student who helped organize the rally.
“Saskatchewan has signing bonuses for nurses, B.C. is hiring and the territories are actively recruiting.”
The College & Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta estimates the province is short up to 1,300 RNs. The United Nurses of Alberta says nursing jobs are being frozen or cut by the government to meet new budget targets.
More than 1,000 graduate nurses will likely end up leaving Alberta because of the lack of job openings in the province, Grundy said.
Another student preparing to graduate said the protest was held to warn Albertans that not hiring more nurses will compromise patient care.
“It is a recession and we understand that everyone is at risk of losing their jobs, but it’s really impacting the patients in the hospital right now and that’s the frustrating part,” said Katherine, who did not give her last name.
“We think everyone should get the quality of care they deserve and right now it’s in jeopardy.”
There was no immediate comment from Health Minister Ron Liepert’s office or from Alberta Health Services, which operates the province’s health system.
The students say they’re speaking out partly because nurses themselves are being muzzled by a code of conduct imposed by Alberta Health Services.
The protesters also took aim at Alberta’s strategy to use more licensed practical nurses to save money.
The students say using people with less education reduces the quality of patient care and is not cost-effective in the long term.
“We’re not looking to step on LPN’s, we operate as a team,” said Grundy. “But there is international research done on staff mix ratios which shows that (using more) unregulated care providers has effects on mortality, morbidity, complications and length of stay (in hospital).”
David Eggen, with the group Friends of Medicare, said the nursing students have a right to be angry.
“The student nurses spent a long time training for positions that seemed to be iron clad,” said Eggen. “Now suddenly they’re being left out to dry.”
Aaron, another fourth-year student, said this is not a time for Alberta to be shunning nursing graduates given the possibility of a swine flu pandemic.