A new survey shines a light on just how difficult the last two years have been on nurses as growing numbers consider leaving the profession.
The survey, conducted by the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO), received 5,200 responses from nurses across Canada, most were based in Ontario. The survey was conducted between May and July of 2021, during the peak of the third wave of COVID-19. Yes, three waves ago.
The survey yielded stark results.
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“The numbers are both sobering and alarming and represent a call to action for the government, health employers, educators, and nursing associations,” RNAO CEO Doris Grinspun said in a press release.
The numbers Grinspun is referring to show that more than 75% of survey respondents are burnt out. Burnout was worse among nurses working on the front line and in hospitals. In addition, 69% of survey respondents said that they would change their position within the next five years, and 42% of those would leave the profession entirely.
The survey also found that nurses have seen an increase in their workloads, with more than half being concerned about the workload and skill mix.
Of the survey respondents, 60% said they were concerned with the staffing levels available. Only 35% of respondents indicated that they had enough support to spend time with patients and clients.
While these numbers are certainly sobering, it shouldn’t be a surprise to those who have been paying attention to the cries for help.
In the fall of 2021, the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table said that Ontario didn’t have the capacity for another wave of COVID-19. Between burnout, nurses and staff off sick with COVID-19 and people leaving the profession, hospitals are short-staffed and everyone is overworked.
In January, some Ontario hospitals had to declare “code orange,” (for disaster) due to nursing shortages.
The RNAO also released recommendations alongside the survey to help ease the burden felt by nurses. They are calling for the Bill C-124 (capping public sector wages) to be repealed, increase the registered nurse workforce by allowing 26,000 internationally trained nurses to join, increase funding for nursing programs, develop a program to help bring nurses back to the profession and establish a nursing taskforce.