FREDERICTON -- With 454 registered nurse positions available across Horizon Health Network, Paula Doucet says New Brunswick is "crying right now for nurses in the system." 

But the president of the province's nurses union says the door isn't always open for those wanting to fill the positions.

"I was dealing with a licensed practical nurse that reached out to me, who moved to New Brunswick from Ontario and was very interested in bridging to become a registered nurse and was hit with every possible roadblock and barrier," she said.

That's despite an ongoing shortage. 

According to recent numbers from Horizon Health Network, there are 454 full-time and part-time RN positions available. Last year, the network hired 144, of which 129 were people from New Brunswick.

There has also been an increase in nurses leaving the system, year-over-year. 

"Forty one per cent of the membership I represent are going to be eligible to retire in the next five years. I mean, that's a huge number, knowing that there are many that are eligible to retire right now," Doucet said. "The other thing that's not surprising is nurses that are fed up, and they're just saying -- I'm leaving, I'm done."

There are 83 nurse practitioners within Horizon Health Network, and 17 vacancies. Over the last fiscal year, Horizon hired nine.

Despite the vacancies, a group of upcoming nurse practitioner graduates say they've been told they're not eligible for many of those positions because they're recent graduates.

"There are some very remote positions that will hire new grads, but other provinces have already offered higher salaries and signing bonuses," they said in a statement. "We would love to stay and take patients off the roster in Saint John, Fredericton and surrounding areas, but we're told there are no jobs for us in those areas."

The chief executive officer of the New Brunswick Medical Society says the province needs to have a "no wrong door approach."

"So, if a medical learner knocks on the door - that's the right door," said Anthony Knight. "It doesn't matter if it's the right person's responsibility or not. We're all in this together, all making sure that we can make the opportunity the best it can be for that prospective individual who's considering practicing medicine in our province."

Since July 2019, Horizon has recruited 78 new family doctors - 17 of which are coming to the province in the summer months. 

But during that same time, there were 40 departures. 

"We need to do more to add more training seats in our medical schools, more residency positions, and make sure when those individuals are ready to begin practice that there is an open door policy to those individuals seeking to establish a practice in our province," Knight said.

All three healthcare professions noted salaries are higher in other provinces, including other Maritime provinces.

In a statement on Thursday, Horizon Heath’s CEO Karen McGrath said the network has worked to maintain an aggressive and innovative approach to recruitment despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Government of New Brunswick, regional health authorities, academic institutions, unions and professional associations need to work together and find solutions to recruit nurses,” she said. “As of April 22, 2021, Horizon is recruiting to hire 17 Nurse Practitioners (NP), 446 Registered Nurses (RN) and 103 Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN), in all areas and specialties. Some positions may require experience; however, we do have available positions for new graduates of NP, RN, and LPN programs and encourage them to apply.”