Career Options

Nursing fair to highlight opportunities at home

When it comes to recruiting nurses for Ontario's hospitals, Elaine Burr thinks she has a better idea.

[ 2004-01-28 ]

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Elaine Burr, organizer of the Nurses 4 Ontario career fair and co-ordinator for corporate staffing at St. Michael's Hospital, hopes the fair will help aspiring nurses realize the range of opportunities in Ontario. (Photo, Alex McDonald)

Burr, a nurse herself and recruitment co-ordinator for corporate staffing at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, is the brains behind Nurses 4 Ontario, a nursing career fair being held Jan. 31 at Ryerson University. At the fair, recruiters hope to persuade student nurses that there are plenty of opportunities for them at home.

Each student nurse who attends the fair will take away something different from it, of course, but Burr thinks it will open many eyes to the opportunities that exist in Ontario. There is no reason, she says, for Canadian nurses to head off to Texas, Florida, the Carolinas and New York state, the five states where most of them go to find opportunities.

At one time, Burr says, all GTA hospitals attended Health Careers Interaction, a fair that's held three times a year in Toronto. But over the last few years, they've stopped going because of cost -- the exhibitor's fee is a steep $3,000 -- and because, by Burr's reckoning, 95% of the recruiters are American.

"We can't compete with them," she says. "They offer big money and say 'Come to California and we'll give you a $15,000 sign-on bonus, we'll pay your student loan, we'll do this and this and this.'" There's even a hospital in Cleveland that offers nurses a free house after three years service, Burr adds.

Further, she continues, there are thousands of Health Careers Interaction attendees with backgrounds in IT, administration and so on who may be overlooked by the hospitals.

Nurses 4 Ontario, then, was born out of frustration. "Many student nurses tell me 'I didn't know what was in Ontario because I went to this big health career fair and there were no Ontario recruiters' or 'I was hoping St. Mike's was going to be there, but there were only three hospitals from Toronto.' That's why I organized this fair," Burr says.

The Jan. 31 fair will be held at Ryerson's Jorgenson Hall between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Burr hopes to attract 300 to 500 attendees, and more than 30 Ontario recruiters will be there. They include Toronto East General Hospital, Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre, St. Michael's, Mount Sinai Hospital, Kingston General Hospital and Peterborough Regional Health Centre.

Admission to the fair is free, pre-registration isn't required and there's ample parking. Burr says she has invited students from nursing faculties across the GTA to Nurses 4 Ontario (, and has the support of the College of Nurses of Ontario.

Recruiters at Nurses 4 Ontario are being charged a $500 exhibitor's fee, and although the fair is billed as non-profit, Burr allows she's hoping that the event will produce a $10,000 surplus that can be turned over to the Canadian Nursing Students' Association.

Burr says she has relied a good deal on RecruitAd Advertising's expertise in launching and managing recruitment campaigns to get Nurses 4 Ontario off the ground.

Tracy Bierstock Wilder, senior account manager at Recruit Ad in Toronto, says the fair was put together quite quickly after Burr approached her company about putting it on. Fair sponsors were quick off the mark with their support too, she adds.

The Toronto Sun, the Globe and Mail, Metroland newspapers, Hospital News and RecruitAd itself are all sponsors of Nurses 4 Ontario, a new venture that Burr says she would like to make an annual event.

(Reach freelancer David Chilton at

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