Nursing numbers buck provincial retirement trend

By Mac Christie
Although the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses recently reported around 2,000 registered nurses could retire within the next two years, Meadow Lake seems to have avoided the issue.

There are 65 registered nurses in Meadow Lake, said Barbara Jiricka, vice-president of integrated health services for Prairie North Health Region, and only six are in a position to retire over the next three years.

“It’s something that’s manageable,” she said of the numbers. “If everybody decided to retire on the same day we’d be hard-pressed, but that’s not the case from our experience.”

Part of the reason for that, said Jiricka, is Prairie North keeps a close eye on eligibility dates.

“We have a conversation with people saying, ‘If you’re planning to retire could you give us enough notice we can fill the gap,’” she explained. “Staff have been extremely cooperative.”

While she noted the nurses aren’t obligated to tell Prairie North, because Meadow Lake is a small community, many of the nurses have a strong allegiance to the city.

In fact, Jiricka said even when retirement age is reached, many staff don’t retire.

“We have people who could have retired a number of years ago and are still working,” she explained.

Another reason Meadow Lake has fewer nurses approaching retirement age is the staff is a mix of ages.

“We have young nurses, 30-year-old nurses, 40-year-old nurses, 50-year-old nurses and a few 60-year-old nurses,” she said. “It’s not a situation where 80 per cent of our staff is over the age of 50.”

That’s not the case across Canada. In 2005 the majority of RNs fit in the 50-54 age bracket, something Jiricka said remains true.

“In Saskatchewan the average age is around 47,” she added.

Meadow Lake and the entire health region, is also focused on nurse recruitment, something which has combated the problem.

“We’ve never let up on our recruitment or retention efforts,” said Jiricka. “We have a good track record of hiring new graduates. Since January 2010 we hired 57 new RN graduates throughout the health region.”


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