Wanted: 100 nurses

Kingston General Hospital recruitment campaign aims to attract registered nurses and nursing students

Jessie Masskant and Aynsley Young, both Nurs ’07, aren’t planning on staying in Kingston after they graduate.
Jessie Masskant and Aynsley Young, both Nurs ’07, aren’t planning on staying in Kingston after they graduate.

Aynsley Young, Nurs ’07, only began her clinical placement at Kingston General Hospital last week, but she already knows that after she graduates, she won’t stay there for good.

“I actually really like Toronto, and I’ve lived in small towns my whole life. … [Kingston] seems like an interesting place to call home for a while before I branch out and travel,” she said.

“It’s not that I don’t like Kingston; I mean, I think that the city’s beautiful and … it sounds like they’re really geared toward welcoming new nurses … but I think I’m suited for another spot.”

Young is one of 55 Queen’s nursing students who began their clinical and consolidating placements at Kingston General Hospital (KGH) last week.

Hazel Gilchrist, manager of Recruitment and Retention at KGH, said of the total number of nursing students doing placements at KGH, only about 11 per cent are native to Kingston. At the end of their placements, said Gilchrist, a large number of students look for work elsewhere.

Young said a lot of people in her class are based out of Toronto and its surrounding area; many just want to move home.

“People have been here for four years and they want a change of scene,” she said.

As a result, there are severe shortages in nursing staff at the hospital, a problem which has been going on since the early ’90s, said Gilchrist.

“It’s been an ongoing challenge for many, many years. … You know, there were cuts back in the early ’90s and we’ve never … been in a position to get back to those pre-cut periods.”

Last Monday, KGH kicked off a recruitment campaign--“100 Nurses in 100 Days”--to combat the nursing shortage. The hospital hopes to attract at least 100 new registered nurses to the hospital before May 31.

Gilchrist said this is KGH’s first campaign of this kind.

Similar initiatives have been taken in a number of American hospitals, as well as a few in Ontario. In most cases, she said, the campaign has been a success.

“It’s certainly not a brand new idea,” Gilchrist said, adding that the hospital will need to hire about 250 nurses every year for the next five years to meet the demand.

“Once the campaign is over, we will continue to work at even a greater pace to maintain and to ensure that we can keep up with the growth.”

In the early ’90s, Gilchrist said, nurse-to-patient ratios were eight nurses for every 1,000 patients. A few years later, this dropped to less than seven nurses for every 1,000 patients.

Gilchrist said retiring baby boom generation nurses increases the shortage.

“We’re also growing to a certain degree, with population growth of the community, and we need to maintain a nurse-to-population ratio.”

The hospital is hoping to target nursing students through career fairs, as well as experienced nurses through professional magazines, Gilchrist said. In addition, every employee who refers a nurse to work at KGH will be granted $500 through an employee referral program.

Ruth Black, Nurs ’07, said she’s considering staying at the hospital after graduation in order to benefit from KGH’s orientation and training process for new nurses.

“I would likely only stay for a short while, and would pretty much treat it as a fifth year of school, going through the training and orientations,” she said.

Jessie Masskant, Nurs ’07, said she had a positive experience with her placement program so far, but is hoping to obtain a degree in international development and travel instead of working at KGH.

“I absolutely love it,” she said, adding that she likes her faculty supervisor and the nurse whom she shadows at KGH. “I get to see a lot, and it’s a really busy place; there’s a lot of variety. …It’s a lot of work but a lot of fun.”

Cynthia Baker, director of the school of nursing, said universities have been preparing for higher numbers of students in the past four or five years, but it hasn’t been enough to offset the shortage.

As a result, a visit to KGH means long hours in the waiting room, not unlike visits to most Ontario hospitals.

“When you’re short-staffed, you know, it wears on people,” Gilchrist said, adding that the shortage is affecting the quality of patient care.

Baker said the majority of Queen’s students who do placements at KGH have had good experiences.

“As far as I know, it’s a very positive place for them. I think that for those that don’t stay, and go elsewhere, I would say that people say, ‘I’d like to be in Toronto, or I’d like to be in Vancouver.’ I think those things play in people’s decisions, more than just liking KGH.”

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