Source: Sarah Seeley, Times & Transcript, March 1, 2018
With almost half of New Brunswick’s registered nurses nearing retirement age, staffing shortages like the one that closed part of The Moncton Hospital’s Emergency Room on Saturday are going to become more common, says the president of the nurses’union.
After 22 years as a registered nurse, Paula Doucet said she has seen the nursing shortage in this province get considerably worse. While the problem isn’t unique to this province, she said, New Brunswick’s aging workforce is expediting the situation here.
“It’s the perfect storm unfortunately,” said Doucet.
On Saturday, a nursing shortage caused the closure of the non-acute area of The Moncton Hospital’s emergency department.
Nancy Parker, the hospital’s executive director, said the closure was caused by “unexpected sick calls” and vacant positions in the hospital. She said staff were shuffled to the emergency department from other units.
Doucet said she was informed of the ER closure.
“It’s very unfortunate that there are so many vacancies there and there is no real backup plan as to how to deal with this shortage in the long-term,”she said.
Parker said Horizon Health Network has launched a national recruitment strategy to bring more nurses to New Brunswick hospitals,using job fairs,social media and partnerships with universities to connect with nurses looking for work.
According to 2016 statistics from the Nursing Association of New Brunswick, 43 per cent of the 8,137 registered New Brunswick nurses are over the age of 50, with 27 per cent being over the age of 55.
Laurie Janes, the nurses association executive director,said the average retirement age for nurses is 57. Over the next 10 years, that is expected to create between 300 and 400 empty positions as older nurses retire.
Janes said reports of workplace violence, long shifts and overtime hours to compensate for the shortage are deterrents to recruitment.
Doucet said working short-handed is “taking its toll”on the nurses.
“Nurses are being asked to do more with less,”she said.“It’s coming out to be dangerous for outcomes for patients.”
The nurses union wants the province to devise a nursing strategy to deal with the shortage and recruiting and retaining employees, said Doucet.
Health Minister Benoit Bourque said he is aware of the nursing shortage and the large number of nurses nearing retirement age. “We are working actively to find a solution to make sure we have enough nurses in the system.”
The health department is looking at methods of recruitment, scope of practice and better conditions for nurses,said Bourque.
Paul Bradley, health department spokesman, said in an email that the department established a Nursing Resource Strategy Steering Committee in December 2017. It will have to evaluate the nursing care team and how care is delivered as well as bringing in nurses from outside the province.
– With files from Adam Bowie