It is at everyone’s attention that there is a need for a more sustainable workforce in the health care system. An important part of this conversation is how we can support nurses and nursing students so we can prevent staff shortages. Should we be paying nursing students during their studies? What about their unpaid practicums?
If we compare nursing students with trades programs, we see a startling difference. There is a big a push for people to join the construction trades apprentice program where students can easily earn $20 an hour during their working practicum. When the time comes to go to the classroom, the government supports trades students by providing EI benefits up to $1,000 biweekly, and for extra incentive another $1,000 for men and $2,000 for women per completion of each level (a total of four levels) towards acquiring their red seal. But what about nursing students? Should we expect them to take out student loans, study full time, and work part time to get their bachelor’s degree all the while doing a practicum for free? Or if lucky minimum wage? Do we value industry workers that much more than nurses? Does the government really care about our health or do they care more about industry growth and the economy than supporting the people who care for the sick?
With headlines like, “Nurses are Giving Up,” and “Physicians were suffering burnout before the pandemic,” combined with our newsfeeds being constantly filled with images from the stressful environment inside hospitals during the pandemic, it’s hard not to think that someone who is considering a career in nursing might also be looking at alternative options, like becoming an electrician. Nursing might possibly be one of the noblest careers someone could pick. But there needs to be more incentive for people to get into nursing besides the personal reward of helping others. Unpaid practicums create a socioeconomic disadvantage for many and if we are trying to bring more people into the medical workforce, we need to even the playing field for all.