New nurse program guide throws baby out with the bathwater

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The new provincial guidelines for a successful graduate nurse mentoring program have an undoubtedly noble goal, given the shortages of nurses being experienced across the province during our time of greatest need. A plan to shortcut graduate nurses into full-time jobs would seem to be just what the doctor ordered.

But, like many things planned from the urban centre by bureaucrats in downtown Toronto, while the new guidelines may work adequately in a big city hospital, they are the kiss of doom for small and rural health centres like that which serves Manitoulin. The new guidleines will throw nurses to the wolves, as it were, reducing their mentorship drastically.

Now while this might work out reasonably well in a high volume venue where a nurse would likely remain in one line of practice for the duration of her career, a nurse in a rural hospital becomes something of a jack-of-all-trades, and that takes a lot of time, dedication and mentorship if the on the job training is to prove successful.

Even more damning among the new changes is the requirement for any participating hospital to offer the graduate nurse they have mentored a full-time job upon completion of the program. In the unionized environment of most hospitals, this is a challenge; for small and rural hospitals that challenge becomes insurmountable. 

In effect, during a time when rural hospitals and other health organizations are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit nurses, the province has chosen to effectively shut down a program that has proven itself to be very successful in doing exactly that.

This shortsighted move will hit Northern and rural health centres, like our own Manitoulin Health Centre, particularly hard. This is a surprising oversight from a government whose greatest caucus strength lies in those very rural ridings across this province that will bear the brunt of the negative consequences of these changes.

The Ford government, facing a provincial election in the coming months, would  be well advised to rethink their changes to the graduate nurse recruitment program—unless perhaps they prefer to leave those necessary decisions to their successors.