As the demand for healthcare services skyrocketed during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for qualified and experienced healthcare workers became more critical than ever before. As such, this healthcare crisis has highlighted and exacerbated the already existing issues that haunt our health care facilities: the shortage of healthcare professionals.
To combat this ongoing issue in Canada's publicly funded healthcare system and ensure the retention of healthcare workers, several provinces in Canada have vowed to provide various incentives, including retention bonuses.
In this article, we will explore the reasons behind the need for retention bonuses and other incentives for healthcare workers. We will also delve into the specific incentives offered by different Canadian provinces and discuss additional strategies to encourage healthcare workers to stay in the profession.
Canadian healthcare is a publicly funded system supported by the government, governed by Health Canada, which serves as the Department of Health, headed by the health minister and deputy minister.
As such, it's important to recognize that the government is also responsible for providing measures to support each province’s healthcare system and keep it afloat by ensuring that healthcare workers will continuously provide their services to their patients.
Driven by the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, the provinces responded to the need to address the staff shortage in healthcare. Here are the initiatives of some Canadian provinces to incentivize the return and retention of healthcare workers:
In November 2022, the Manitoba government laid out and announced the Health Human Resource Action Plan, which aims to employ 2,000 healthcare providers in the Manitoba healthcare system through 3 key strategies: retain, train, and recruit. It also aims to recognize the value of healthcare workers and encourage them to provide their services to the province. The newest addition to the then already existing incentives include:
Newfoundland and Labrador provides various incentives for healthcare professionals to encourage them to start, stay, or return to service. These include the Come Home Incentive, which is open to various healthcare occupations for individuals with ties to Newfoundland and Labrador or those intending to relocate to the province and Family Practice Start-Up Programs and Rural Incentive for Family Medicine to encourage the practice of family medicine in different areas.
Several signing and recruitment bonuses are also provided to attract and retain qualified healthcare workers to practice their profession with NL Health Services, which include healthcare workers in long-term care and those they consider as difficult-to-fill positions (these include paramedics, nurse practitioners, and radiation therapists, divided into different categories based on location, which will determine how much these professionals will receive).
The province also provides various scholarships and bursaries to encourage its residents to pursue a career in healthcare. These include scholarships and bursaries for nursing, dentistry, occupational therapy and physiotherapy, and radiation therapy.
You may learn more about these incentives here or contact NL Health Services for more details.
In his speech last March 2023 held in Dartmouth General Hospital, a hospital serving residents of Dartmouth and parts of Halifax, Premier Tim Houston expressed his appreciation of healthcare workers and promised to provide bonuses of $5,000 each.
This retention bonus is provided for eligible healthcare workers and team members who work in the Health Authorities, EMCI, Hearing and Speech Nova Scotia, Continuing Care sector, and Disability Support Programs, examples of which include paramedics, respiratory therapists, kitchen and food service staff, housekeeping staff, and ward clerks.
Nurses are also provided with various financial incentives, which include a Thank-You Bonus worth $10,000, a Retention Incentive worth $10,000, and a Return to Nursing Incentive worth $10,000.
You may read more information about these financial incentives for healthcare workers in Nova Scotia, including the eligibility and other details here.
In March 2023, Prince Edward Island announced an increase in the financial recruitment incentives they will provide to registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and midwives. This is aligned with the government's aim to strengthen the province's healthcare system by incentivizing the said healthcare providers to render their services to the province.
Some of the recruitment incentives available include the following:
Rural Incentives of an additional $5,000 will also be given to help fill out essential healthcare roles in rural areas, while healthcare students not eligible for the Canada Federal Student Loan Forgiveness Program can also apply for a Student Loan Incentive.
Saskatchewan provides loans, bursaries, and financial incentives for healthcare students and professionals.
The Graduate Retention Program, where graduates of healthcare degrees who live and work in Saskatchewan are given up to $20,000 rebates on their tuition fee, is one of those incentives.
Another incentive is the Saskatchewan Rural and Remote Recruitment Incentive, where healthcare providers who choose to work in rural and remote Saskatchewan locations will be given a one-time incentive of up to $50,000, which is paid for 3 years.
You may visit their website here to explore other financial incentives available in Saskatchewan.
While financial incentives, such as retention bonuses, play an important role in encouraging healthcare workers to stay in the profession, they are not the sole solution. Other strategies need to be implemented to create a supportive and fulfilling work environment that ensures the long-term retention of healthcare professionals. Here are other ways of keeping our healthcare workers from leaving or encouraging them to stay:
To attract and retain healthcare workers, it's important to improve recruitment efforts and hire the best candidates. Streamlining the hiring process, offering competitive salaries, and providing comprehensive benefits packages can significantly enhance the appeal of healthcare positions. By selecting candidates who are passionate about healthcare and have the necessary skills and qualifications, healthcare organizations can create a strong foundation for long-term retention.
The workload of healthcare professionals can be overwhelming, leading to burnout and increased attrition rates. To alleviate this burden and promote retention, healthcare organizations should consider hiring more care staff that can provide assistance to registered nurses and physicians, such as nurse practitioners and medical assistants, so they can redirect their continuing care efforts to their core responsibilities.
Healthcare professionals often work long and irregular hours, which can have a significant impact on their work-life balance. To promote retention, healthcare organizations should prioritize creating fair and flexible scheduling systems. By allowing healthcare workers to have a better work-life balance, organizations can enhance job satisfaction and reduce turnover rates.
Continuous learning and growth opportunities are essential for retaining healthcare professionals. By offering professional development programs, organizations can demonstrate their commitment to the growth and advancement of their employees.
These opportunities could include specialized training, conferences, workshops, and mentorship programs. By investing in their employees' professional development, healthcare organizations can enhance job satisfaction and promote long-term retention.
Recognizing and appreciating the hard work and dedication of healthcare professionals is crucial for retaining them. Healthcare organizations should implement recognition programs that acknowledge employees' achievements and contributions.
This can include awards, employee appreciation events, and peer recognition programs. By showing appreciation, healthcare organizations create a positive work culture and boost employee morale, increasing the likelihood of retention.
To retain healthcare professionals, it is essential to create an environment where their voices are heard and their concerns are addressed. Healthcare organizations should actively seek employee feedback through regular surveys, suggestion boxes, and open-door policies.
By incorporating employee feedback into decision-making processes and taking proactive steps to address concerns, organizations can foster a sense of ownership and engagement among healthcare professionals, contributing to long-term retention.
Retention bonuses and other incentives play a vital role in attracting and retaining healthcare workers. However, it's important to recognize that financial assistance alone is not enough and that health authorities must implement changes to improve the health care system as a whole.
Ultimately, ensuring the retention of healthcare workers is not only important for the stability and efficiency of public healthcare systems but also for the well-being of patients who rely on these dedicated professionals for high-quality patient care.
At Caring Support, we strive to help support the public health care system by providing services that can help in healthcare recruitment efforts and in supporting the health care workers and students in their career advancement. Our premier marketplace also features the best deals from top brands in Canada, catering to the needs of healthcare workers, from scrubs to medical tools.
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