EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - It is Canada Day, when our neighbors' to the north celebrate the creation of their own independent nation, but years ago, many of those neighbors started moving here looking for opportunities in healthcare, particularly nursing. Washington's eyes are now fixed on health care reform. Meanwhile, nurses in Canada's free health care system are in high demand.
"I miss everything Canadian today," said Jennifer LeBlanc, a registered nurse at ETMC.
LeBlanc came to Texas 12 years ago. She's director of critical care at ETMC.
"It doesn't matter if you live in Canada, or Australia, or Timbuktu, I think a nurse is always respected for their knowledge and their education," said LeBlanc.
But, over the past several years, more and more Canadian nurses have moved to the United States.
"It's a misnomer that healthcare is free in Canada," explained LeBlanc. "You pay through your taxes, so it was difficult as a nurse to make ends meet."
Registered nurse Pat Loff moved to East Texas more than 20 years ago. Wednesday, at Mother Frances Hospital, she was passing out newsletters. She is also involved in a University of Toronto research study that is trying to find ways to get Canadian nurses back to Canada.
"A lot of people say that the career opportunities are not there, that the structure of the healthcare system is such that they don't feel appreciated," explained Loff.
A study by the Canadian Nurses Association predicts Canada will need somewhere between 59,000 and 113,000 nurses by 2011. Those estimates are based on figures from the 90's. They're now considered conservative.
LeBlanc said it's just part of the positives and negatives of providing "free" health care.
"In Canada, you have the best care but you may have to wait," said LeBlanc. "It's not available to everybody and...decisions are made based on age, on the outcome, the potential for outcomes."
She said that in Canada, preventative care is a central focus. Meanwhile, Washington is trying to find the right balance for the United States.
"Healthcare isn't just packaging something up and producing it, it's providing what the culture finds acceptable," said Loff. "And, the current U.S. culture, in my opinion, is not going to accept a socialized healthcare plan."
"They should really study those systems and look at them and take the good things and leave the bad things behind," said LeBlanc.
But, some say the primary goal has not changed.
"Nurses are in a unique position everyday to touch a life," said Loff. "There's no other profession that is as rewarding."
And, even on Canada Day...
"I probably would be working back home too," said Loff.
The American Nurses Association is working with lawmakers in an effort create the best system for nurses, hospitals, and patients, alike.