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B.C. offering bonuses of up to $30K to attract, retain nurses

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The B.C. government is introducing a series of bonus programs in an effort to recruit new nurses to the province – with the highest incentives going to those willing to work in the north.

Nurses can receive $30,000 for agreeing to work a minimum of two years in northern parts of the province, or $20,000 for serving other rural and remote areas.

Even in major urban centres, nurses applying for vacancies deemed "difficult to fill" or "high need" could receive bonuses as high as $15,000.

The government is also offering $15,000 for nurses willing to commit two years to GoHealth BC, the province's travel nurse program.

Health Minister Adrian Dix unveiled the incentives at a news conference Friday, while also highlighting some of the government's other efforts to address nursing shortages in the province.

“You got to train more, we’re training more,” Dix said. “You got to have more pathways to internationally educated nurses, we’re doing that.”

Part of that effort is an expansion of the Provincial Rural Retention Incentive. Nurses can earn up to $8,000 a year if they agree to stay in one of 63 communities eligible for the program.

In addition, the government is preparing to implement minimum nurse-to-patient ratios for a variety of health-care settings.

That includes one nurse to every four patients in adult medical and surgical units, a one-to-three ratio in palliative care, and a one-to-one ratio in intensive care.

While other jurisdictions such as Australia and California have already implemented the ratios, B.C. will be the first province in Canada to do so.

"Minimum nurse-to-patient ratios not only help patients and help nurses,” said Adriane Grear, president of the BC Nurses' Union. "But they help recruitment, retention and they will be a model that I believe will end up being followed across the country. What we are doing here is historic. What we’re doing here reflects what we believe about health-care workplaces.”

There are also new incentives for those training to join B.C.’s nursing ranks. That includes tuition credits of $2,000 per year for those pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), Bachelor of Psychiatric Nursing and Practical Nursing. Indigenous students in a BSN program will have the ability to get an additional $5,000 in tuition credits on top of that.

The recruitment, retention and training push will cost the province $237.6-million.

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