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Nurses across Canada are quitting their jobs and leaving because of pandemic stress

Concerns have been voiced over the exodus of experienced nurses who are quitting their jobs or moving into less demanding positions. It’s happening across Canada, across Ontario as well as here in Sudbury.

The issue is discussed in the most recent issue of the Canadian Medical Association (CMAJ) journal.

The article noted that at the end of 2020, job vacancies in Canada’s health care sector hit a record high of 100,300, up more than 56 per cent from the previous year. It was reported that emergency departments and intensive care units are disproportionately affected.

More recently, the concern was echoed in a recent survey carried out by the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO). Results of the survey were released at the end of March.

RNAO said based on the survey, the “exodus” of nurses was “alarming”. The survey was conducted from late January to mid-February taking responses from more than 2,100 registered nurses (RN), nurse practitioners (NP) and nursing students working in Ontario. The survey sourced data from nurses in all domains of practice and across all sectors of the health system, including hospitals and long-term care.

Most survey respondents — 95.7 per cent — said the pandemic affected their work, with a majority of nurses reporting high or very high stress levels.

CONSTANT BURNOUT

This story has hit home in Sudbury where one nurse sent an email to Sudbury.com about their feelings on how the pandemic and its demands have impacted them. The nurse asked that their name not be used.

“I know we are in a dangerous situation, but I believe that the real threat is not being addressed. We are already experiencing a huge nursing shortage, and it is going to get much worse if something is not addressed soon.”

In the email, the nurse said the job is stressful on the best of days, but being able to relax and wind down on days off is not what it used to be.

“Due to the lockdowns and restrictions, nurses are no longer able to ‘destress’ and so many of us are in a constant state of burnout,” said the nurse.

“We need to be able to relax and recharge. We need to be able to see our loved ones and enjoy life again. I joined nursing as a second career, and I can’t tell you how many times in the past year I have considered returning to my previous career.

“We are hailed as heroes, but right now, I just feel like an overworked tool. If you compare nurses to soldiers, we are like infantry being sent into battle every day with minimal rations, no reprieve, dwindling numbers, and a constant message in the media that we are ‘losing the battle’.”

Checking out the careers section of the HSN website, there were 29 current job postings for nursing positions. There were 16 current job postings for registered nurses and nine current postings for registered practical nurses. Other career notices revealed an additional four postings for various types of registered nursing positions.

In many cases, the postings were for temporary and part-time positions and many were offered with possibility of extensions.

A general description in the job postings page said candidates could expect to be assigned to one of many nursing positions. The posting also said “while these opportunities could be in any department across HSN, we have an immediate need within our acute care settings.”

Concerns were also raised that an increasing number of those in the nursing profession are younger and less experienced.

For example, the median age of emergency department nurses in Ontario’s Brant Community Healthcare System is a decade younger than it was one year ago due to recent retirements and departures for other positions, according to Tammy Coates, a nurse and the clinical manager of the department, said the CMAJ article.
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