RNU in Action

Evaluating the Think Tank

March 14, 2023

Last year, RNU successfully lobbied the provincial government to hold a Think Tank to come up with short term solutions to improve retention and recruitment of registered nurses and nurse practitioners in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Think Tank took place virtually on April 4-5, 2022 with more than 150 participants from the frontline all the way to CEOs. More than 700 RNs and NPs also completed a Think Tank survey.

Following the Think Tank, a committee comprised of officials from RNU, the Provincial Government and RHAs was created to develop a plan with short term recommendations to retain and recruit RNs and NPs.

It took several months, as well as a lot of pressure and lobbying by RNU to secure measures which were finally announced on August 2, 2022.

While RNU pushed for a much greater investment, millions of dollars of Think Tank incentives were offered to our members, as well as a range of health care providers.  It was unprecedented to secure this outside collective bargaining.

RNU was clear from the beginning that Think Tank incentives would not fix the dire challenges facing the profession. All along the Think Tank measures were intended to be a starting point -short term measures that would provide some relief and hope. Much more would be needed (and is still needed) to improve working conditions and address recruitment and retention. However, your union was not prepared to leave this on the table.

RNU has requested an evaluation of the Think Tank measures from the provincial government. Here is some information on uptake of incentives. We continue to wait for the Department of Health and Community Services to provide a detailed evaluation.

Retention Bonus – Approximately 90 per cent (or 3,402) of eligible RNs accepted the $3,00 retention bonus and agreed to a one-year return in service.

Signing Bonus for Casual Registered Nurses – We are awaiting data, however we feel there was very little uptake given the low amount of $3,000 that was offered.

Double Rate Overtime for Vacation Period – Beginning July 25, 2022, overtime covered under Article 9.0 of the collective agreement was paid at a double rate. This incentive was supposed to be in place until October 31, 2022 but was later extended to January 31, 2023. While a formal evaluation of this incentive has not been completed, members reported this mechanism helped to fill shifts in advance, increasing the ability to grant annual leave and reducing the number of mandated shifts. RNU formally requested the continuation of this measures and held several discussions with the Minister and Premier. There is no appetite from government to continue. Double rate for overtime is a proposal at the bargaining table.

Reimbursement of Licensing Fees for Retired RNs – A $500 incentive covering licensing and liability insurance costs was provided to registered nurses and nurse practitioners, who return to work from retirement.  This benefit was provided to anyone who left work for reason of retirement, then returned to work and is still employed.

Travel Locum Premium –Under a Private Agreement, RNs and NPs will be paid a premium wage top-up of $25 per hour to work in locum positions in Labrador Grenfell Health. RNU has previously referred to this initiative as a Travel Team.  While we await a formal evaluation of this pilot project, there are many indications this premium is helping to address vacancies and provide much needed staffing relief. The pilot will be reviewed when the RHAs amalgamate on April 1st/23. Our hope is this approach can expand to other areas of NL and help decrease the use of Private Agency Nurses.

Mental Health Supports –  A working group assembled to promote existing mental health services and develop new solutions to support the unique psychological health and safety needs of nurses has begun its work. Education sessions were delivered during RNU’s Biennial Convention and Nursing Grand Rounds (150 participants to date) and third-year nursing students. Education is also being embedded in the School of Nursing curriculum at the start and end of programs.

More than 1,500 nurses took part in the Nurses’ Mental Health survey conducted by the working group last fall. The overall rating given by respondents regarding the level of mental health support provided to nurses was 3.5 out of 10. Respondents provided feedback on several items, such as their own mental health assessment, interest in mental health training, and uptake of current mental health supports. The results of the survey will be used to inform next steps for the Working Group. RNU will continue to seek updates and share information with members.

Child Care – A committee comprised of the Department of Education, Department of Health and Community Services, RNU and RHAs has been established to explore child care options for employees who work non-standard hours. Several meetings have taken place and data is being collected to inform this project. Two pilot sites will be chosen in Western Health and Eastern Health.

Self-Scheduling Guidelines –Provincial guidelines to support the adoption and use of self-scheduling have been finalized. Read more here.

Bursaries for Third-Year Students in Bachelor of Science in Nursing – Third-year students should now be offered bursaries in exchange for employment upon graduation. Previously, bursaries were only available to fourth-year students. We have requested data on this measure.

Signing Bonuses Reinstatement – After several years of not offering signing bonuses, RNs and NPs may be offered signing bonus for employment in difficult-to-recruit positions. We have requested data on this measure.