Eyasu Yakob is a third-year nursing student and president of the Canadian Nursing Students’ Association. His education has involves hands-on learning at practicum placements in various health care settings, including long-term care and hospitals.

Eyasu began his nursing education during the pandemic, motivated by the country’s need for more nurses and the opportunity to make a difference in his community. As a student, Eyasu is already familiar with the pressures nurses are facing amidst severe staffing shortages and is concerned about what his future in nursing might look like.

“Will I be able to work till I’m 65 and put in an honest career in nursing, or will I be burnt out very quickly and scared into doing a different line of profession outside of the bedside, or changing careers altogether?” he says. “As I’ve been hearing many young people doing that, it’s very scary, and it causes uncertainty.”

He says retaining nurses currently in the profession would help solve one of the largest issues facing nursing students: strong mentorship and support.

“Many students complain there’s a lack of experienced nurses on their floor during their placement, and this is forcing them to enter leadership positions in very early stages of their career and making them feel very uncomfortable,” he says. “If there are greater efforts to ensure these mid-to-late career nurses stay in nursing, you’re able to have students and the next generation be recruited in proper numbers. If you do not value retention, you’re not going to be able to recruit the next generation of nurses."

To help address the shortage, Eyasu says governments need to invest in nursing students and make nursing education more accessible. He points to vigorous expectations, where nursing students often must work 30- to 40-hour weeks in clinical placements while also juggling coursework, family responsibilities and part-time jobs to pay the bills.

“It just makes it very untenable for people to pursue nursing, especially those who are maybe trying to enter, maybe in their twenties or in the middle of their career,” he says.

Eyasu hopes governments will work together on a unified plan to retain the nursing workforce and support students in their decision to support the health of our country.