Nurses look south for jobs

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By Joan Vanduzer

As graduation approaches, students are scrambling to find job opportunities in a dog-eat-dog work force. Is Ryerson adjusting to meet the ever changing needs of employers? This week The Eyeopener begins a two-month long look at Ryerson programs, and how students are starting their careers.

Will the pain ever stop? Mount Sinai announced the layoff of 94 registered nurses two weeks ago. Toronto Hospital laid off 322 nurses in November. With the number of jobs in Canada on the decline, nursing students are making a run for the border.

Melanie Pottins, communications officer for the Ontario Nurses’ Association, says the nursing industry is cyclical. Five years ago, job opportunities were good. Now, with hospital restructuring, nurses are being laid off. No one really knows what the future needs will be.

“The example of Mercy Medical in Baltimore, which started the restructuring earlier than we did in Canada, gives us hope, she says. “Forty per cent of nurses laid off are now being recalled.”

Ryerson builds a variety of clinical experiences into the four-year nursing program and students’ names are kept on file at placements, she says.

Ontario has nine universities with nursing programs. They turn out about 1,300 BA graduates every year. Over 80 per cent will get jobs in Ontario, according to statistics gathered by the Ontario Nurses’ Association. However, the majority of these jobs will be part-time or casual, not full-time.

Professor Raye Roberts of Ryerson’s nursing school says curriculum changes currently taking place at the school are imperative. In the first year there is an emphasis on self-directed learning and critical thinking, she says. By the time students get to fourth year, they will have gained the people skills and thinking required for acute care.

Despite the depressing statistics, nursing students at Ryerson are optimistic.

First-year student Sydney Dennis, one of five male students in his first-year class of 132, is cynical about his chances in Canada. He says he would like to do relief work in Africa with the U.S. Red Cross. “The objectives are not well defined,” he says. “What is a nurse supposed to be trained to do? This makes it hard for the faculty.”

Chantell Gignac, a fourth-year nursing student, says she thinks job prospects are good for part-time or casual work. She is willing to go where the jobs are but would prefer to stay in Toronto.

Rob Walsh is another first year student. He sees the changing role of nursing and agrees with Roberts’ analysis. From his experience working as a ward clerk at a big city hospital, he sees the importance of learning people skills. “The communication courses where you learn to communicate one to one makes the Ryerson program totally relevant,” he says.

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