This is the kind of story that drives me crazy about Canadian health care.
Take a self-serving report (this one by the Canadian Nurses Association, but there are others published every year), then oversimplify its findings and report them to the public, highlighting another crisis in Canadian health care.
To quote the story, available here:
“The report, by the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA), says 8,000 nurses will graduate but 15 per cent of them won’t be able to find secure employment.
The CNA says the problem is resulting in 10 per cent of new graduates moving to the United States every year.
The unemployment figure is determined by looking at health-care policy studies, past trends and reports from young nursing students across the country.”
Except it isn’t entirely accurate — the key word in the report is “secure.” A lot of professionals, when they first graduate, aren’t hired into permanent, full-time jobs. Instead, they are hired on probation, given the worst shifts, etc. Nurses, unfortunately, are no different.
The report goes on:
“According to the CNA, Canadian governments spend an average of $60,000 over four years to train a nurse. If 1,200 of them are unable to find work ever year, that amounts to a waste of $72 million in tax dollars.”
“Smadu said that employed registered nurses are working the equivalent of 10,000 full-time jobs in overtime.
“We know that 8,000 isn’t even meeting that gap and that’s why to us it’s really very shocking that we have new graduates who still don’t have full-time employment when they graduate,” she said.
“We predict at the association that we need about 12,000 graduates a year to deal with the impending retirement of registered nurses.”
There’s that word again — full-time employment. Does the fact that a new nurse, fresh out of university, isn’t being offered a permanent, full-time shift at a hospital or other health care facility mean that he or she doesn’t have a job? Not necessarily, but this report is being reported as though that is the case.
The Canadian health care system is a complicated mix of public and private sector management and involvement already. Doctors, far from being employees of the government, are self-employed business people, by and large.
There are things to be done in health care — moving new doctors to salaried positions, for example, and buying the practices of current physicians. There are things to be done in medical education — eliminating tuition fees for doctors who agree to remain in Canada, charging the true tuition (about $100,000 per year) to those who don’t agree, and finding a mechanism to enforce that agreement, for starters.
And, yes, we’re facing a demographic challenge — but reporting the results of a study without ensuring the real questions are asked isn’t going to do it.
So what questions would I ask?
- Are you saying, Canadian Nurses Association, that there are trained nurses in Canada who are unemployed (not underemployed, but out of work completely)?
- Are you saying these nurses, professionally trained and certified and willing to relocate, can’t find any work anywhere? Or are you saying they can’t find guaranteed, full-time employment in the area they want, with the hours they want — because that’s different.
I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I would want those answers before I reported that “1 in 7 new nurses can’t find work.”
I think the Canadian health care system, by and large, works pretty well, and I think the proof is obvious to anyone who’s watched GM, Ford and Crysler struggle with their health care costs south of the border. “System needs improvement,” however, isn’t the same headline as ”system in crisis.”