Nursing shortage may be a simple numbers game
When Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach made a campaign pledge in February 2008 to graduate an additional 225 doctors and nurses annually over the next four years in an attempt to address the province’s health-care shortage it seemed like an empty promise.
While the jury is still out on Stelmach’s “solution,” there is no denying that a massive crisis is brewing in Alberta’s health system and no plausible end is in sight.
The next generation of health professionals — who seemingly will be looked upon to fill the void of qualified staff and devise solutions for Alberta’s health system — face no easy road when choosing a career in helping others. As if studying and practicing medicine is not difficult enough, these students also face extreme costs that in the middle of a full-blown recession will likely seem insurmountable for some.
My brother has just completed his first year in the Bachelor of Nursing program at the University of Calgary. The major cost he incurs each semester is obviously tuition; the fall and winter semesters each cost $2,562 and he paid $542 for a mandatory two-week practicum at Rockyview Hospital. Add on his required textbooks for the year, which totaled roughly $1,600 and a number of other costs — including lab kits, uniform, vaccinations and a required security check — and his final bill was well in excess of $7,500.
Now to add some context to this figure, consider my costs as a fourth-year journalism student. I paid $2,330 for the fall semester and $2,520 for the winter. Admittedly my tuition was not much lower than that of the nursing program, however, my textbooks and supplies for the entire year only came to roughly $500. When added up, my total bill came to $5,350, roughly $2,150 cheaper than the nursing fees.
In my personal experience, saving enough to make tuition each year is difficult enough when other costs like rent, car insurance and other monthly bills constantly seem to drain the bank account. Add a recession on top of this, which sees few employers hiring and those that are offering smaller wages than before, and the life of a student in Alberta is not exactly easy. It seems to me that $2,000 in extra fees could serve as a deal-breaker for many who consider a career in health care. How many innovative individuals will give up before realizing their true potential?
It is time we start offering incentives and tuition breaks to this vital sector of our education system. Medical students should be spending more time memorizing medications and practicing procedures instead of working every evening and weekend just to make ends meet. One day our lives could literally depend on it.