Province expands health-care workforce and increases patient access

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Ministry of Health

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What people are saying about actions to strengthen B.C.’s health-care system

Selina Robinson, Minister of Post Secondary Education and Future Skills

“By creating new training seats and bringing innovative training models to public post-secondary institutions, we are creating more opportunities for individuals looking to work in the health-care field. This investment is how we are building a strong, robust health-care system that serves the people of British Columbia.”

Jennifer Rice, Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Health, and MLA for North Coast

“Health care needs to be accessible to everyone, regardless of where they live. We’re improving health-care services in every corner of the province. Expanding the paramedic workforce and ambulance services, particularly in rural and remote communities, and the significant increase in financial travel supports for those accessing care in larger communities is an important part of our work.”

Harwinder Sandhu, Parliamentary Secretary for Seniors’ Services –

“I am thrilled to see more health workers have been trained and hired to work in communities throughout B.C., as well as long-term care settings, assisted living and the home health sector. Not only does this support our health-care workers, it also means our seniors receive the quality care they deserve and their loved ones can rest easier knowing health-care professionals are there to help and deliver the care they need. Our government is committed to continuing to strengthen the health-care and long-term care system across our province.”

Dennon Leibel, relational security officer at Vernon Jubilee Hospital in Vernon -

“I’m excited to now be a direct member of the Interior Health team and apply the new skills and training that were introduced as part of the Relational Security Program. Seeing how strong our team is and will be is very encouraging because we have the chance to make this program very successful.”

Kym Baresinkoff, clinical manager at Hardy View Lodge in Grand Forks –

“GoHealth BC has been a true lifesaver. Such a support to our site, residents and staff. The nurses sent are prepared to jump in and work. The Northern Health team sets them up for success. Can’t say enough about the program.”

Mark Bagabuyo, clinical manager at Nicola Valley Health Centre in Merritt –

“I love the idea behind the program. Not an agency, but equality with the staff we have on the site. Setting up employees and arranging accommodations is streamlined with GoHealth BC. Even with it being our first placement at our site, it has been a positive experience.”

Jessa Abary, internationally educated nurse and re-entry nurse support program, Vancouver General Hospital –

“The sincerity showing their appreciation for the care and service I provided brings a sense of fulfilment knowing that I was at least able to touch the life of another individual and help make it better. Getting to work in Vancouver Coastal Health has been an amazing opportunity for me, especially as an internationally educated nurse.”

Nicholas Pelliccio, internationally educated nurse, St. Paul’s Hospital –

“I was born in Florida. I met my partner in 2019 and began the process of me wanting to move to B.C. I would say to other nurses around the world, you would be missing a great opportunity if you didn’t come to work in B.C.”

Vanessa Deakin, Health Career Access Program (HCAP) graduate –

“It has been quite demanding in all areas, but very rewarding as well. I’m so very thankful for this opportunity and highly recommend it to everyone.”

Kirby Hodson, Employed Student Nurse (ESN) with Northern Health Authority –

“I very much appreciate this opportunity to gain relevant work experience, build critical-thinking skills, and develop both confidence and independence while exploring potential workplaces in safe and supportive environments. I can’t recommend the ESN experience enough.”

More information about the HHR Strategy

The HHR strategy, announced on Sept. 29, 2022, ensures people get the health services they need and are cared for by a healthy workforce. The strategy focuses on 70 actions to recruit, train and retain health-care workers while redesigning the health-care system to foster workplace satisfaction and innovation. Thirty-nine of the actions are complete or in progress.

  • Since 2017, B.C. has welcomed more than 38,000 new workers to the public health-care system and committed more than $1 billion to support health-care workers and increase access to health services for people.
  • Starting with Budget 2023, government has committed nearly $1 billion in new funding over three years to implement 70 actions organized around the four cornerstones of the HHR Strategy, including:
    • $253 million in retention to build healthy, safe and inspired workplaces;
    • $194 million in redesign to optimize and innovate;
    • $224 million in recruitment to attract and onboard; and
    • $324 million in training to create accessible career pathways.

Key achievements to date

  • 6,258 new nurses have registered with the B.C. College of Nurses and Midwives, including 578 internationally educated nurses in 2023.
  • 158 GoHealth BC nurses delivered more than 99,000 hours of travel nursing service in 24 rural communities, alleviating workforce pressures and reducing reliance on agency nursing. GoHealth BC is the provincial travel resource pool funded by the Ministry of Health.
  • Hired all 320 relational security officers across 26 sites.
  • Bringing back 4,600 health-service workers into the public health system through Bill 47.

Stabilizing health-care services in rural communities by retaining health-care workers

  • Funding retention incentives worth up to $8,000 annually for regular (full- and part-time) employees working in pilot communities in Northern Health (Dawson Creek, Chetwynd, Tumbler Ridge, Peace River South, Fort St. John, Hudson’s Hope, Peace River North, Fort Nelson, Hazelton, Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii); Island Health (Mt. Waddington); and Interior Health (Grand Forks).
    • More than 2,000 Northern Health, Island Health and Interior Health employees have received prototype incentive payments in 2023.
  • Committed $7.5 million to stabilize rural physician emergency room coverage in Merritt, Oliver and Salmon Arm.
  • Launched new staffing models in 60 rural and remote communities that will add 272 new full-time paramedic positions to improve 911 responsiveness and provide consistent and reliable ambulance care for the people who live in these communities.
    • Since 2017, the Province has created more than 1,000 new full-time paramedic and emergency medical responder positions (including more than 650 in 2021 and 450 in 2022), and 42 dispatcher positions.

Optimizing scopes of practice to expand access to care across B.C.

  • Introduced new regulations to enable paramedics and first responders to provide a wider range of services to patients during emergencies.
  • Under their newly expanded scope of practice, pharmacists are now treating minor ailments and providing contraception services, prescription adaptations and drug administrations, reducing pressure on primary care.

Attracting and onboarding internationally educated health-care professionals

  • Supporting international medical graduates (IMGs) who are not eligible for independent licensure to work in a team-based care setting as an associate physician supervised by an attending physician.
    • As of Oct. 31, 2023, 22 programs were accredited to hire associate physicians, and 16 associate physicians were hired.
    • In 2023, 666 IMGs have joined B.C.’s public health system.
  • Adding 64 seats to Practice Ready Assessment B.C. (PRA-BC), which provides an alternative pathway to licensure for IMGs who completed their family medicine residencies outside of Canada.
    • At full implementation, PRA-BC will have 96 seats (tripling intake from 32 in 2022) – 80 dedicated to primary care networks and 16 dedicated to high-needs rural or remote communities.
    • The Province has already added nine seats across the spring and fall 2023 cohorts, raising the number of seats from 32 to 41. The expansion to 96 seats will be complete in 2024.
  • Supporting internationally educated nurses (IENs) with navigation and immigration services, a zero-cost registration pathway and bursaries to reduce financial barriers to practice.
    • Starting in 2024, IENs who meet requirements will be eligible for a new type of provisional registration (with limits and conditions) so they can fulfil clinical experience requirements in B.C.
  • Offering bursaries with a return of service in B.C.’s public sector for internationally educated allied health starting with internationally educated physiotherapists, 55 of whom have already signed a return of service agreement in B.C.’s public sector.

Expanding access to primary care by attracting health-care workers to longitudinal care

  • Launched the longitudinal family physician payment model, a blended payment model available to family physicians who provide longitudinal care. The model was developed in consultation with B.C. Family Doctors and Doctors of B.C.
    • From Feb. 1 until Dec. 4, 2023, 3,882 family physicians registered for the longitudinal family physician payment model.
  • Implemented medical education debt-relief grants and one-time signing bonuses for new graduate family physicians practising longitudinal primary care.
    • From June 2022 until Nov. 1, 2023, 119 physicians received incentives representing 114.9 full-time equivalents.
  • Expanded the Health Connect Registry to connect people throughout the province with primary-care providers in their communites.

Expanding access to training and education opportunities

  • The Health Career Access Program (HCAP) continues to serve as an accessible pathway for those without experience in the sector to enter careers in health care through employer-sponsored training.
    • As of Nov. 27, 2023, more than 7,000 people have been hired into HCAP (including 2,112 in 2023) where they gain non-clinical experience as a health-care support worker in long-term care, assisted living, home health and acute-care settings across B.C. while training to become a health-care assistant.
    • This includes 188 workers who self-identify as Indigenous in 2023.
  • Allocating priority program bursaries to improve uptake of training opportunities, support Indigenous students, fill key workforce gaps and recruit B.C. graduates into the public-sector workforce.
    • As of Oct. 31, 2023, 122 health-care assistants have received the Access to Practical Nursing Bursary for their training to become a licensed practical nurse.
    • Additional priority bursaries will be announced before the end of fiscal year 2023/24.
  • Increasing the supply of physicians in B.C. by adding 40 new undergraduate medical education seats and up to 122 new residency positions by 2028 at UBC’s Faculty of Medicine.
    • In 2023, the first 18 new undergraduate (UGME) seats and 29 new residencies (PGME) were added, including 12 in family medicine, 12 in high-demand specialties and five in PGME re-entry (for existing physicians to retrain for a priority specialty with a return of service in a high-needs community).
    • The full expansion of up to 40 UGME seats will be complete in 2024, and the 122 new residences will be added by 2028.
  • Work is also underway to open the new medical school at Simon Fraser University, the first entirely new medical school in Western Canada in 55 years.
Province implementing nine more actions to strengthen health-care system

Provincial Peer Support and Mentoring Program

  • Government is building a peer support and mentoring program that empowers experienced health-care workers to support new entrants.
  • Funding for nurse clinical mentor positions and nurse preceptor premiums totals $99.5 million over three years between fiscal year 2023-24 and 2025-26.
  • Investing $6.2 million over three years between fiscal year 2023-24 and 2025-26 to support an allied health peer support and mentoring program in alignment with the Allied Health Strategic Plan.

Clinical Management Capacity Building

  • The Province is addressing gaps so that workers on the front lines have adequate support from senior clinical staff.
  • Clinical management roles support staff retention in the short term by helping to balance workloads and in the long term by creating exciting new career development opportunities.
  • Over three years between fiscal year 2023-24 and 2025-26, $25.1 million will add front-line clinical management supports in high-needs areas.

Clinical Practice Capacity Building

  • The Province is adding professional practice and clinical education roles to bridge the gap between academic knowledge and clinical practice, improving patient safety and supporting continuous improvement.
  • Over three years between fiscal year 2023-24 and 2025-26, $48.7 million will add professional-practice and clinical-educator roles in high-needs areas for both nursing and allied health.
  • Clinical practice leaders (including educators, specialists and professional-practice director and leaders) provide important support to new entrants to the health-sector workforce and foster a culture of continuous quality improvement by integrating specialized theory and knowledge into the clinical environment.

Expand GoHealth BC

  • Further expand GoHealth BC, the provincial travel resource program supporting rural and remote communities across B.C. to provide supports to additional rural and remote communities across the province and add more health-sector occupations such as allied health to this service.
  • Over three years, $113.7 million will support GoHealth BC to hire up to 790 travel staff including registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and identified allied-health providers.

Integrated Provincial Recruitment Supports

  • B.C.’s public health system partners are responding to increased demand for health-care workers by launching a co-ordinated provincial recruitment action plan with a focus on ensuring an exceptional and consistent experience for health-care workers throughout the continuum of recruitment: marketing, navigating, hiring and onboarding.
  • By placing a new focus on provincial recruitment, this new system will advance a culture of collaboration and enable the province to attract qualified workers to high-needs areas, including rural and remote communities which have often struggled to compete for talent.

Health and Care Careers Promotion Program

  • With a focus on early learning opportunities for high school students, the Province will add opportunities for high-school students to explore training in health care by raising the profile of varied careers available across the health sector and broader care economy and supporting the next generation of health-care workers.
  • These learning opportunities will also specifically support Indigenous students to envision themselves in the health-sector workforce, improving representation of Indigenous students in health-sector post-secondary programs and in health-care careers.
  • This project is led through a collaboration between the Ministry of Education and Child Care, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills, and the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions.
  • Over three years between fiscal year 2023-24 and 2025-26, $5.35 million will support these four streams.

New Graduate Transition Program

  • The Nursing New Graduate Transition Program has been designed to enhance recruitment and retention; provide onboarding, mentorship and training support; standardize hiring practices; and increase job readiness by supporting the consolidation of skills.
  • New graduate nurses hired by health authorities and Providence Health Care will benefit from:
    • A guaranteed offer of regular employment for at least six months at a minimum of 0.7 FTE in this program. New graduate nurses who require a lower FTE will be reasonably accommodated by mutual agreement with the employer in alignment with the British Columbia Human Rights Code;
    • A simplified hiring process that is limited to affirming licensing and completing criminal record checks;
    • Protected time for new graduates to onboard, including training, mentorship hours, etc.;
    • A one-time bursary of up to $500 upon completion of licensing exams; and
    • Support from a clinical mentor, clinical educator or professional practice consultant, in-person or virtually to build practice readiness and consolidate skills.
  • The Province will also begin implementation of the allied health new graduate transition program.
  • Over three years, $7.3 million will fund nurse new graduate support teams to assist with hiring and onboarding and $19.5 million will support the allied-health new-graduate program.

Employed Allied Health and Student Nurse Program

  • Government is expanding and enhancing the existing Employed Student Nurse (ESN) Program and developing a complementary Employed Student Allied Health Program.
  • Employed student programs are part of a robust and sustainable response to urgent staffing needs by accelerating allied-health and nursing students’ entry into key workforce gaps, particularly in rural and remote communities.
  • These programs support full-time students to work in a clinical capacity and use this experience to ease their transition into a permanent health-care position by boosting practice readiness and establishing connections between students and communities.
  • As of Oct. 31, 2023, Health Authorities and Providence hired 1,665 Employed Student Nurses, up from 1,225 hires in 2022.
  • Over three years:
    • $60 million will fund the expansion and enhancement of the ESN program; and
    • $4.2 million will enable the launch of the new Employed Student Allied Health Program for identified allied health occupations.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing – Specialty Nursing Pathways

  • The Ministry of Health is partnering with health employers, the Ministry of Post Secondary Education and Future Skills, the Nursing Education Planning Council, and the BC College of Nurses and Midwives to implement a new and innovative bachelor of science in nursing practice education and transition model.
  • The new model modernizes undergraduate nursing education to ensure new graduates are effectively prepared to meet increasingly complex-care requirements and to address high turnover in the first years of practice after graduation.
  • Over three fiscal years (2023-24 to 2025-26), $11.7 million will support the integration of high-demand specialty-nursing education pathways into the bachelor of science in nursing program.