WINDSOR, ONT. -- Windsor Regional Hospital is launching a recruitment campaign they call both aggressive and unique, to bolster the ranks of critical care nurses.

“Its an immediate need,” says Karen Riddell, Chief Nursing Executive. “We’ve probably got about 20 to 30 vacancies we’re looking to fill across those various programs.”

The positions for qualified nurses to work in some of the hospitals most critical areas, including the operating room, the intensive care unit and the surgical recovery unit.

The healthcare system was starting to experience a shortage of nurses, but Riddell says COVID-19 has made the problem worse.

“Its been a long 15 to 16 months with COVID. We do recognize it’s been very hard on our staff. Want to make sure that they can have time off, have their vacations that are well deserved,” says Riddell.

So the hospital has launched this new recruitment program for highly skilled nurses.

  • Critical care nurses from out of province or out of country, including Canadians currently working in the
  • U.S., are eligible for up to $75,000 in signing bonuses
  • Registered nurses from out of province or out of country, including Canadians currently working in the
  • U.S., are eligible for up to $25,000 in signing bonuses who join in general practice nursing;
  • Retired registered nurses and currently unemployed registered nurses in Ontario are eligible for up to
  • $25,000 (critical care) and $10,000 (general nursing) in signing bonuses.

“This is something that is very unique in Ontario and in Canadian hospitals. We typically don’t have aggressive sign-on bonuses and incentives available and that’s just part of the Canadian health care system,” says Riddell.

In addition to the nurse shortage and the pandemic pressures, Riddell says they also have an “aging workforce” that is starting to eye retirement.

Riddell says they will need more nurses to “supports our ability to build our critical care capacity and also plan for our covid recovery with surgical ramp-ups.”

In spite of the pandemic, Riddell believes this is a good time to move to Windsor to work in healthcare specifically, because of the new single-site acute care hospital being built here.

“I think it’s an exciting time to come back to Windsor Regional. Really participate in that whole process and get to work in a brand new facility in what we hope will be the next five to seven years,” says Riddell.

The recruitment is funded in part by the province to just 10 hospitals in all of Ontario.

Windsor Regional is the only hospital to get the funding in the Erie St. Clair LHIN.

While the hospital news release specifically mentions nurses working in the United States, Riddell says they aren’t looking to steal nurses away from Michigan.

“We’re not really looking, you know, rob Peter to pay Paul,” she says.

Sean Hopkins, a critical care nurse in Detroit thinks the incentives are a great idea for easing the nursing shortage that isn’t just a problem in Windsor.

“It wouldn’t be enough for me to change jobs,” he says after 27 years working in the USA.

“We go to Detroit for the opportunity for full time employment, but it (job descriptions) doesn’t say that. $75,000 is a lot of money but it doesn’t say that its in one lump,” adds Hopkins.

The Ontario Nurses Association too is glad a recruitment is underway, but says the government funding doesn’t even address retention of those already working.

“We’re in a wage restraint situation. So for nurses who are are currently working they are restricted from any real monetary wage increases of 1 per cent,” says Vicki McKenna President of ONA.

“Nurses haven’t had a real wage gain, matching above inflation for a decade. So on the wage side there’s much that can be done to retain nurses.”