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By Prapti Bamaniya
While some Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) nursing students are considering relocating to rural Ontario due to a new provincial tuition reimbursement program, others said it had little bearing on their future employment decisions.
Nursing graduates can receive up to full tuition reimbursement for a two-year commitment to work in an underserved community, as part of a recent expansion of the Community Engagement Program for Nurses (CCPN ), according to its website.
The expansion, announced in March 2022, will run from 2022 to 2024, with up to 1,500 graduates eligible each year, the website says.
Funding for the expansion is provided by the Government of Ontario’s “Plan to Stay Open”, a set of initiatives that aim to expand health care policies and measures to better equip the province’s response to crisis.
The plan also includes the Ontario Learn and Stay Grant, a tuition reimbursement program for up to 2,500 eligible students each year who enroll in a high-priority program in a high-priority community and commit to working in an underserved community for up to two years. after graduation, according to the program’s website and press release.
Grant applications will begin in the spring of 2023 and the consultation process on program and community eligibility criteria began this summer.
Tahera Sudha, an international student at TMU in her first year of nursing, said she doesn’t mind traveling and would consider the program due to the high cost of her tuition.
“As an international student, I am open to travel as I have already traveled miles to come here, so moving to the rural side is not a big deal,” she said. “We have to pay so many fees, so if the government pays tuition, why not?”
Tuition fees for international students at TMU can range from $31,749 to $38,472, according to the TMU website. National tuition fees for students range from $7,050 to $11,986.
Millisent Olanrewaju, a fourth-year nursing student, said she was ready to take up a job anywhere after graduation.
“My ideal situation after graduation would be to find a job; it doesn’t have to be in Toronto.
However, the schooling program and the potential impact of working in a rural community give him additional reasons to move.
“The money would help me,” she says. “I think [the program] will help people who live in these communities, making health care more accessible. It is also very attractive.
According to the 2015 Report on Nursing in Rural, Remote and Northern Ontario, rural communities have the smallest populations. The report defines a rural community as a community that has “a population of less than 30,000 [is] over 30 minutes in travel time from a community of over 30,000 people.
Jasmine Zhang, a 2021 TMU nursing graduate, said she would not consider working in a rural community despite the incentive.
“It’s not worth it, even if I get my money back,” she says. “Of course, I’m thinking of tuition, but it’s a high cost to put your whole life on hold just to get up there, even for two years.”
Samin Barakati, a fourth-year nursing student at TMU, said working in a rural community for two years would have a big impact on her life. She also said she receives significant tuition assistance from the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP).
“Personally, it’s still a big decision to live in a rural area during this time frame, so I wouldn’t apply,” she said.
Other nursing students said they are unwilling to let go of their attachments and relationships in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area.
“My life is here. I can’t imagine myself living in a smaller [city] no matter the prompting,” said third-year nursing student Cheryl Kahandavitagamage.
Nenna Abdella, another third-year nursing student, agreed. “I’m so used to my social network in the city that it would be difficult to communicate [with] if I had to move to a rural area to work.
Recruiting and retaining nurses in rural, remote and northern regions of Ontario is challenging and if left unaddressed, these regions could face a human resources crisis, according to a 2015 report on nurses. Registered Nurses Association of Ontario workplaces.
“Access to quality health care [is] a long-standing problem in these areas,” the report read. He added that death rates increase the further away a community is.
Corinne Hart, associate professor of nursing at TMU, said the quality of health care in rural communities needed help. “There is such a sub-service of nurses in rural areas. There is a real lack,” added Hart.
“I think probably in some rural areas nurses are taking on more and more responsibility.”
Hart said the tuition reimbursement program offers a chance to benefit rural areas and makes nursing school more accessible to people with financial constraints.
“It could open up nursing school and the profession to people who otherwise couldn’t afford it,” she said.
There are also downsides to the program, she added. “In rural areas, the work is often much more complex and demanding. It can force people who otherwise could not afford [tuition] in work environments where they might not have chosen to go otherwise.
Matthew Shepherd, a fourth-year nursing student at TMU, said he would not apply for the program as he hopes to become a travel nurse after graduation.
“Why stay here, where we’re not getting paid enough, where we’re starting to be treated like crap, and where the government isn’t helping us in any way, shape or form when we can just walk away and get paid 10 times more .
According to an article by The Journal of Nursing Administration.
Pay for traveling nurses is higher than that of a permanent position. Its higher salary is generally seen as the main draw to the profession, according to a February 2022 article in head nursethe official journal of the American Organization for Nursing Leadership.
Shepherd said the government should do more to encourage nurses to work across the province, not just in rural communities.
“We desperately need nurses across Ontario,” he said. “They should probably repay if not all, [then] half nursing tuition for all students who have attended nursing school,” Shepherd said.
Shepherd also hopes to see the elimination of Bill 124, which imposes a hard cap of 1% per year on wages and benefits for nurses and other health professionals, according to the Nurses Association of Ontario.
If housing was reimbursed under the new government program, Abdella said she would consider moving.
“It would be much better if they covered it; maybe I would go.
Barakati said she thinks rural work experience should be a mandatory component of nursing education in Canada to help underserved communities.
“Especially since it’s getting worse and worse, it might be worth making it mandatory.”
She added, however, that a short term in an underserved community does not solve the medical care problems in those areas.
“Solving the problem isn’t necessarily about having someone there on a monthly basis,” she said.
“It’s a matter of continuity of care. For example, you need a family doctor to take care of you for years, not just months.
Although some students do not want to work in rural communities long term, they said they might still want temporary experience.
“It would be great as a short-term experiment,” Zhang said. “What appeals to me is basically the idea of expanding your scope of practice, as well as gaining a lot of experience working with different populations and just taking on more autonomy and responsibility by you. -same.”
Barakati said she would consider working in a rural Ontario community for her 12-week winter internship, even without prompting.
“I just want to experience different environments, improve working conditions and my own understanding of working in those situations,” she said.
Ultimately, Barakati just hopes that rural communities will get the support they need.
“In the back of everyone’s mind, we know the health disparity in remote communities and rural communities and they just need help.”