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The Nursing Shortage is Real

Emergency room closures due to lack of nursing staff appear to be New Brunswick’s norm these days, and this reality is only going to get worse. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), 41% of registered nurses (RNs) in New Brunswick are eligible to retire in the next five years. Imagine, not having enough registered nurses to staff three of our largest provincial hospitals (Saint John, Moncton City and Fredericton). Combine this nursing shortage with being the oldest and sickest province in Canada, where the healthcare needs of our population are increasing and becoming more complex; the next elected government needs to take action immediately.

Intervention and innovative leadership are required by government to repair our healthcare system. Recent electoral promises to build more clinics and increase structural funding can only better the population’s health if RNs are adequately staffed to deliver the required level of knowledge and skills for safe patient care.

The two largest nursing organizations in the province, the New Brunswick Nurses Union (NBNU) and the Nurses Association of New Brunswick (NANB), collectively representing over 8,600 RNs and NPs, have partnered to identify five healthcare election priorities, which if implemented – would greatly improve the health of New Brunswickers.

One of our priorities, arguably the most vital, is for the next government to implement a strong and sustainable health human resource strategy. New Brunswick needs more than a band-aid “today” solution. Government needs to implement a long-term solution five or more years from now; considering enhanced training/education programs to meet the population needs, bridging programs, international recruitment efforts and so forth. We strongly recommend that government support and require universities to allocate additional seats within the provincial faculties of nursing. When nursing graduates have successfully completed their program, we recommend government develop an employment model that encourages RNs to stay and work in the province by offering them permanent employment with paid benefits.

No one would challenge the fact that a neurosurgeon is needed to perform brain surgery, but we do not apply the same logic when it comes to nursing care. Registered nurses (RNs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) are essential healthcare professionals who are experts in the delivery of healthcare based on their skills, education and training. RNs and NPs safeguard the quality of care, ensuring optimal outcomes and fewer adverse events. It is a fact, when governments cut professional nursing staff, costs go up elsewhere in the healthcare system, and the quality of care declines.

In this election, the number one issue is healthcare. Registered nurses and nurse practitioners are engaged and want to see decisions being made that will improve the safety and quality of care they can deliver to their patients, and all New Brunswickers. As voters, it is time you demand quality healthcare from your government.

Paula Doucet is president of the New Brunswick Nurses Union (NBNU)
Karen Frenette is president of the Nurses Association of New Brunswick (NANB)

Visit www.nbnursingmatters.ca to learn more about our five-healthcare election priorities.

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