By David Chilton
Special to the Toronto Sun
National Nursing Week is underway. This year the annual event features a multimedia advertising campaign to advocate solutions to turn Ontario's grab bag of community services for the elderly into a seamless whole and to persuade nurses to work with seniors.
Posters of of real-life situations with seniors and nurses are decorating transit shelters and TTC vehicles.
Lesley Frey, a spokesperson for the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, says her group and the Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario are using the TTC, GO Transit and transit shelters across to province to spread their message.
During Nursing Week May 10 to 16, more than 3,300 posters will decorate subway cars, buses, the Scarborough LRT, GO trains and transit shelters. They feature real life photographs of active seniors and nurses caring for them in times of need. Advertising has also appeared in daily newspapers and in 46 community newspapers across the province.
As well as the ad campaign, both nursing associations and the provincial Ministry of Health and Long Term Care were co-hosts of the fifth annual Nursing Week Job Fair May 10 at the Toronto Board of Trade that brought together more than 50 exhibitors.
Behind the scenes there's been just as much activity as there's been in the front of the house.
At St. Michael's, the hospital has launched a groundbreaking program to hire new nursing graduates for its medical-surgical intensive care unit, an area for which the just qualified haven't been hired until now.
Kelly Roy, clinical leader/manager at St. Mike's, says the hospital realizes it has to innovate to cope with nurse shortages and to recruit new graduates.
"I can't get critical care nurses," says Roy. "They're hard to come by."
Recruitment co-ordinator at St. Michael's Hospital
There are three parts to the hospital's new ICU program, she says. The first provides three-month nursing internships for new graduates then sends them -- free -- to the 15-week critical care course at George Brown College. The second part is a partnership with various wards in St. Michael's that will see new graduates work for six to eight months at the hospital then they too will be sent to George Brown.
The third part of the program, and perhaps the most radical, is hiring newly qualified nurses directly for the medical-surgical ICU. Roy says if in their last clinical placement (known as "consolidation") these grads have worked in an ICU and have shown exceptional ability St. Mike's will send them directly to the George Brown critical care program.
Elaine Burr, recruitment co-ordinator at St. Michael's, says hospitals have never hired new grads into ICUs in Canada although that's the practice in the U.S., where many Canadian-trained new graduates head.
By offering the new program, St. Mike's hopes to persuade these recently qualified nurses to stay at home and develop their skills and careers here.
So far, St. Michael's has hired seven new nursing graduates, says Roy, and she expects to hire a couple more for a specialty that is perhaps the most difficult in nursing.
"Critical care isn't for everyone," says Roy. "We have very specific things in mind when we hire. We look for passion, a career plan, extra-curricular activities. We need critical thinkers."
Elsewhere, hospitals across the GTA will be celebrating National Nursing Week internally with symposia, temporary job exchanges, long service awards and so on.
Even politicians have got into the act. As part of Nursing Week's "Bring an MPP to Work," the RNAO has invited Premier Dalton McGuinty, Minister of Health George Smitherman and NDP Leader Howard Hampton, among others, to see for themselves what nurses do day in and day out.
One wonders what the notoriously sharp-tongued Florence Nightingale, born this day 184 years ago, would say about their appearance at bedside.
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