According to data obtained by CTV News Investigates, the number of Canadian nurses obtaining the paperwork necessary to work in the United States has more than doubled to almost 1,700 in the last five years, aiding in the staffing shortage that is a major reason why emergency rooms and hospital wards are closed.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals across the world are competing for the services of nurses, who are becoming increasingly frustrated with the legal wage cap in Ontario. These hospitals are luring more nurses with higher wages, benefits, and bonuses that they claim they can’t get at home.
According to Samantha White of Toronto-based recruitment agency Intellistaff Medical, “Even the full-time permanent roles are paying a good $15–$20 more than what you would make in Canada, and then the sign-on bonuses, $10,000, $20,000, assistance with housing and relocation—all of that is typically part of the package.”
Since the passage of Bill 124, a law that caps salary increases in the public sector at one percent per year for three years, White said she had noticed a significant surge in Ontario nurses wishing to go south.
It’s a lot more profitable than it is up here in Canada, especially in Ontario, where Bill 124 has prevented rate increases, according to White. It has unquestionably increased during the past two years.
Emily Pyke, an ER nurse in Toronto who is headed to Florida after what she called a year of demanding shifts and risky patient ratios in which she cared for up to six patients at once, is a part of this exodus. Pyke claims to be emotionally exhausted and concerned about being placed in a situation where a patient’s result might be adverse.
“As a nurse, you enter the field because you want to aid people. Even if you give your work your all every day, you sometimes feel as like you can’t make a difference because of the resources available to you and everything else, she added.
With the cost of living, Pyke remarked, “it’s impossible to continue working for such a rate.” NICU nurse Damilola Ola-Adigun told CTV News that she now works in Syracuse, New York, after formerly working in Toronto. Before working in the U.S., Ola-Adigun claimed she was unaware of how overburdened Ontario’s healthcare system was.
In an interview with CTV News, Ola-Adigun stated, “Every day you go to work, you’re working understaffed, and your license is on the line.” “There is a lot more encouragement and support in America. The biggest advantage is that they recognize that you have a life and children, she remarked.
“I was astounded at how much time these nurses are given to arrive at work when they aren’t supposed to. It demonstrates their regard for them. In Ontario, I’ve never seen that. In Toronto, I’ve never seen that. Do you want me to return it? There isn’t a chance, she said.
When CTV News Investigates questioned various government agencies, healthcare groups, and regulators in Ontario about the number of nurses who had left the province, none were able to provide specific numbers. The breakdown of employees entering the country as a result of a free-trade agreement was omitted by the US State Department.
However, as nurses obtain work permits in the United States, the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS), a non-profit organization with U.S. headquarters, keeps track of the number of nurses who request to transfer their credentials.
According to information obtained by CTV News from CGFNS, more than 1,300 Canadian nurses filed to have their credentials transferred to the United States in 2019 compared to 801 in 2018. After reaching 947 during the epidemic, the numbers began to rise once more, reaching over 1,700 by the end of 2022.
According to CGFNS’s Frank Mortimer, the number of Canadian nurses authorized to work in the United States has increased by 50% in the past five years and may now be at an all-time high. The trend, according to Mortimer, “is that it’s increasing year after year.” “I believe that the potential and financial benefits of migration are likely the motivating drivers.”
In a statement to CTV News, the Ontario Ministry of Health said that as part of its retention strategy, it would hire 6,000 more healthcare professionals, invest $34 million to boost nursing program enrollment, and engage in international recruiting.
In order to acquire the language skills and clinical experience necessary to get licensed to practice nursing in Ontario, more than 1,000 nurses with international training have been placed in hospitals across the province, according to the statement. The statement made no mention of paying nurses more to keep them amidst the global labor shortage.
According to Pyke, some recent nursing grads are already considering moving, which suggests that the allure of the United States may undercut some of these initiatives. Many newly graduated employees who are just beginning out are departing right immediately, she claimed.