If you fund them, they will come! Saskatoon Health Region, the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses and the Ministry of Health are sending that message to registered nurses (RNs) across the country, and achieving results.

Britney Sirota, a recently graduated RN who accepted a position at Wadena Hospital, heard the call. “I love working in a rural facility,” says Sirota. “Every day I see or do something new. I’ve talked with some nurses I graduated with, and I am definitely doing a lot more than most of them. In rural, you don’t work on just one specific unit. I really feel that I can take on almost anything now. It has given me a huge confidence boost.”

The Region, Ministry and SUN have come together to attract RNs like Sirota to rural and long term care facilities across Saskatoon Health Region through innovative funding arrangements that include:

– a three-year, $7,500 return for service agreement for rural sites;
– a two-year $2,500 return for service agreement for long term care sites;
– a one-time injection of $2,000 for facilities looking at retention initiatives;
– professional development bursaries, and;
– six-week, full-time mentorship opportunities for newly graduating RNs who want the support of a mentor in their new positions at a rural or long term care site.

“These incentives are a true collaboration in every sense,” says Shelley Lofstrom, Manager of Workforce Planning for Saskatoon Health Region. “We worked with SUN to determine what will work best to attract the best RNs to rural and long-term care, two areas already identified as needing more registered nurses. We have received a tremendous number of inquiries already and a number of nurses have already been approved for the funding.”

A committee of Region and SUN members identified four key initiatives to assist in recruitment and retention and help build a culture of nursing excellence together: rural nursing, long term care nursing, healthy and respectful workplaces, and education, training and professional development. Each of the four identified areas has specific programs in place funded through a one-time grant of $881,915 from the Ministry of Health.

“Collaborating with Saskatoon Health Region on such an important initiative is very important to our members and SUN as a whole,” says Barb Abele, RN, committee member and SUN Board Director. “Our rural and long term care facilities need skilled RNs to provide the best possible patient care. Our relationship with the Region is strong and we look forward to continued collaboration now and in the future.”

The committee works together to identify problems, determine priorities, develop options and implement initiatives to address RN and RPN retention and recruitment. This committee meets quarterly to review vacancies, staff turnover, pending retirements, the effectiveness of retention and recruitment initiatives, patient safety and quality of care indicators.