All About Employment in Victoria, BC

A closer look at the Health Care Sector

As mentioned in the previous post giving an overview of this sector health care jobs are expected to show fairly robust growth in the next few years with an annual average growth of 2.1% or 64,000 jobs in the decade between 2012 and 2022.

Despite the shortage of health care workers it seems that incentives and assistance for those wishing to pursue education in these fields is sketchy. I followed a link to the Grants and Scholarships page on the StudentAid BC site only to find that the there was no table containing information on funding programs to be seen. There is a specific nursing bursary which is awarded automatically (based on financial need I presume) to eligible students when they apply for student loans – but what about those that don’t take out a loan to pursue their education? This bursary program is under review as of today (May 2015) but may be worth checking into if you are interested in pursuing nursing. The Health Sciences Association of BC also offers scholarships for education in various health care fields.

On the plus side since there are shortages in many health care occupations it may be more likely that graduates from even short programs (like the Health Care Assistant program – 29 weeks at Camosun) will find work without too much trouble.

Big Employers in this Sector in Victoria …
The biggest health care sector employer in Victoria is Island Health (formerly Vancouver Island Health Authority). Island Health has ~18,000 employees Island-wide (and also on the mainland) but a large proportion of those work here in the Greater Victoria area at Royal Jubilee Hospital, Victoria General Hospital and the Saanich Peninsula Hospital as well as smaller extended and residential care facilities.

Today there are 215 jobs listed on the Island Health site for Victoria but more than half (113 out of 215 or 53%) are for nurses. There are a small number of jobs (clerical positions for example) that do not specifically require an education in health. Less skilled positions as cleaners and dietary aides that might have been good jobs for those without post-secondary education 20 years ago have been contracted out in most (all?) Island Health facilities to Compass Group Canada. The majority of the 102 non-nursing jobs do require some post-secondary education – for example jobs for sonographers, nursing unit clerks (a 9-month part time program at Camosun), rehabilitation assistants, laboratory technologists, dietitians and central processing assistant.

A significant portion of the health care workforce is baby boomers and in the next couple of decades many are going to be retiring. Definitely there will be opportunities available for those that have the resources (intellectual, time and financial) to put off earning while attending post-secondary education but even then will the jobs be worth it? Many health care professionals will have to settle for jobs that demand they work a variety of shifts and often miss out on family events because of having to work holidays and weekends even with many years of seniority. As mentioned in the overview of this sector the workplace can often be an unhealthy one – not just in terms of injuries brought on by activities of the job itself (exacerbated by poor ergonomics) but also in respect to violence and emotional and psychological stress and trauma.

Overall, the choice to work in this sector in general and working for Island Health in particular must be carefully considered. Although there may be plenty of jobs available and wages are above-average other aspects of the workplace are not so attractive. For example, the seemingly eternal shortage in nursing has meant many nurses work a lot of overtime with all of the added stress and strain on their bodies and minds (which of course is compensated with extra wages but it would be interesting to see how many think it is worth it in the long run). Early shift starts may make working in many positions in hospitals or clinics very difficult to manage for parents – especially those with school-age kids – what are you going to do with your 9 and 7 year old when you have to be at work for 7:00 am and school doesn’t start until 8:30 or 9:00?

From a Victoria point of view the high cost of living, lack of affordable daycare options and mediocre public transit infrastructure may make working at Island Health unattractive despite relatively high wages and a large number of open positions. What do you think – do you work in health care now? Have you worked in the sector but left it and if so why? Feel free to comment below or send me an email to susan at yyjworks dot com.

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