A survey of registered nurses in Saskatchewan found that nearly 60% of them have considered leaving the profession in the past year.
The survey of more than 1,500 members of the Saskatchewan Nurses Union (SUN), released on Tuesday, shows that more than 80% said they did not have enough nurses in their workplace, more than double the number of 2021.
It also shows that most felt anxious and helpless and most feel that Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Health Minister Paul Merriman did not handle well the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The findings come after months of high-profile departures and after other reports showed healthcare workers had left the field.
SUN President Tracy Zambory said the results represent a “canary in a coal mine” that shows nurses are scared, very overwhelmed and burnt out.
“Patients are put at risk because there aren’t enough health care providers to be able to provide safe patient care,” she said, telling Global News that Moe and Merriman dropped out. health workers.
“Every time a registered nurse shows up and sees their unit, agency or facility with such unbelievably short staff… it reminds them that the Prime Minister and Minister of Health have ignored their cries for help, ignored their calls to say, “We have a health-care system in crisis”.
57.4% of respondents said they had considered leaving the profession in the past 12 months. This represents the highest percentage in the past eight years of nurses who said they were considering leaving and represents an increase of nearly 12% from 2021.
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Those who said there were temporary or permanent vacancies accounted for 82.8%, up from 39.7% in 2021. The survey also shows that almost 90% said there were not enough nurses to cover absences or meet higher demands for services in their workplace.
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These figures and the testimonies of nurses, Zambory said, show that many nurses are working unsustainable overtime and said the province’s political leaders must take note.
2022 marks the first time the survey has asked members for the opinion of the Premier and Minister of Health, although the overall score for “Saskatchewan government elected officials” fell from 2.47 to 1.95, on a scale of five.
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Half of the respondents, 49.8%, gave Moe and Merriman the lowest rating possible.
Meanwhile, 63.1% of respondents also disagreed with federal elected officials’ response to the pandemic.
Just under half also misjudged the leadership of the Saskatchewan Health Authority.
Thirty-three percent said the SHA was a poor or very poor place to work, and 24.1 percent said it was a good place to work.
Meanwhile, 42.9% said it was neither good nor bad.
Health care policy consultant Dr Dennis Kendel said the numbers were deeply concerning.
He told Global News that the heavy pressure on nurses shows the provincial government needs to reassess how the health care system works, learning lessons from other jurisdictions about what has and hasn’t helped during the pandemic. .
“It’s entirely possible that some of the work that doctors do now could be done by others, and also with nurses and others, and we need to be creative and flexible in the future,” said he declared.
Referring to nurses as the backbone of the healthcare system, he said anyone reading the survey should understand that the numbers show burnout.
“In all fields of human endeavour, we can sustain heroic effort for a time. And then there is a moment when your body and your mind give out. You can’t do that anymore.
In the 2022-23 budget, the Saskatchewan government allocated $6.44 billion for health care, including $1.5 million to recruit 150 health care workers from the Philippines to the province.
Zambory said this measure takes time and will not help anyone in the short term.
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She said the province needs to invest in creating more places for nurses in education programs, to match new nurses with nurse practitioners to gain more skills, and focus on recruiting nurses. in rural areas, among other measures.
But she said the first thing Moe and Merriman could do was admit the health care system was in crisis.
But the Minister of Health did not, at the request of journalists on Tuesday.
“I absolutely recognize that there are challenges, absolutely,” he said.
“And I never backed down from that. We have challenges in our health system, we will continue to have challenges in our health system.
He said his role is to support registered nurses and all members of the healthcare team, which includes maintaining and improving the number of seats in nursing education programs – although the nursing campus USask Regina nurses are closing and redistributing their places.
It’s still not the first step Zambory was hoping for.
“When people actually feel respected and heard and their ideas are put into action… It goes a long way because it became untenable for so many people because they felt abandoned,” Zambory said.
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