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'You did leave out casual nurses': Casual nurse sends email to N.S. premier about $10,000 bonuses


Casual nurses say they were left out of Nova Scotia’s announcement to reward bonuses and retention incentives to nurses and other health-care workers.

Marleen Spencer, a casual nurse herself, said she applauds the decision to give bonuses but she also has concerns.

The long-time registered nurse who came out of retirement to work two to three days a week said she’s a little nervous paramedics aren’t getting the same bonus nurses are.

“I worry it’s going to create a divide between health-care staff,” she said.

In an email to the premier, she also pointed out how casual nurses weren’t included.

“I did say in my letter to him that you did leave out casual nurses,” she said. “Most nurses I know that are casual aren’t interested in signing on for an additional two years but they would continue to work what they currently work and some of them work almost full-time hours.”

On Monday, the Nova Scotia government announced that nurses are getting a $10,000 bonus and are being offered an additional $10,000 retention bonus if they sign on to work for two years.

A long list of other health-care workers, such as paramedics, housekeeping staff and respiratory therapists, are being offered $5,000 retention bonuses to sign on and work for two years.

Health Minister Michelle Thompson says casual nurses will not be getting a bonus.

“It’s based on a full-time equivalent, full-time employee equivalent. But if a casual staff nurse does return to a full-time or part-time position, there would be some remuneration,” Thompson said.

Spencer said on any given day in the endoscopy department at Halifax's QEII where she works, there are three to five casual nurses working.

“The QEII will not function without casual nurses,” she said.

While Spencer doesn’t expect anyone to leave their roles, she does think casual nurses will be angered and disappointed they were excluded.

“I can’t say I’m surprised because we tend to get forgotten sometimes. Even though we really and truly are essential,” she said.

A $10,000 incentive is being offered to nurses who’ve left the public health system to return if they sign on to stay for two years.

That would include Czarina Dykeman, who left Nova Scotia recently to become a travel nurse.

She’s currently doing her first contract in Prince Rupert, B.C.

“They offer a higher salary,” Dykeman said. “That’s the main reason why people are doing travel nursing or health-care workers.”

Tired of working next to travel nurses in Nova Scotia who were earning more than she was, she left the province and became a travel nurse herself.  Her husband still lives in Nova Scotia but she doesn’t believe the latest incentive is enough to draw her back home. 

“You have to work there for two years,” she said.  “$10,000. You’ll get that in travel nursing in just two to three months.”

Janet Hazelton, the president of the Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union, said the feedback her office has received about the provincial announcement has generally been positive.

But Hazelton notes casual nurses are not happy.

“They feel they have been there working, holding the system together with the other nurses and they’re disappointed they’re not included,” Hazelton said.

On Monday, the province’s health minister said ideally, 1,500 to 2,000 nurses would return to Nova Scotia's public health system.

As for what may draw retired nurses back into the fold, Hazelton thinks it’s important to look at barriers.

“Maybe it’s paying for their licence. Guaranteeing they don’t have to work night shifts,” she said.

Any potential wage increases will happen in negotiations that are taking place right now. Top Stories

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