The New Brunswick Nurses Union says ongoing staff shortages and overcrowding in the province’s hospitals are affecting the health of nurses.
“It is impacting their health and their ability to take care of themselves,” said Paula Doucet, union president.
In the last year, Doucet says there’s been an increase in the number of nurses taking medical leave. Coupled with the hundreds of vacant positions going unfilled across the province, “we are probably looking at between 600 and 700 nurses out of the system on a daily basis,” she said.
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That makes nursing student Nick Dempsey a little nervous about what’s to come. He’s graduating this year and hopes to get a job through a New Brunswick hospital.
“Maybe being overworked and tired, I could be a bit stressed in terms of wanting to give 100 per cent to my patients each time I am on the unit and so, in a way, that would make me nervous,” Dempsey said.
Doucet adds that nursing students have reason to be concerned. She said nurses in the province are so overworked and overstressed due to an ongoing nursing shortage and hospital overcrowding that it is impacting workplace morale and, ultimately, patient care.
The Horizon Health Network said it’s working with the N.B. Department of Health to recruit more nurses and address hospital overcrowding. In an emailed statement, Geri Geldart, vice-president of clinical for the Horizon Health Network, said opening up more beds is not an option being explored.
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“Adding additional dollars or more beds has not been Horizon’s strategy as hospitals are at full capacity, where all of our beds are full and we’re experiencing resourcing challenges as we deal with the current national nursing shortage,” Geldart explained.
“I don’t think opening up more beds is the answer because if you open more beds, you need the staff to deliver care to those who are in those beds.”
Doucet said the province needs to find a way to recruit more nurses and address hospital overcrowding in the shorter term to help improve working conditions.
Given the current working conditions, she is concerned that students will shy away from choosing nursing as a career option.
“How do you alleviate the shortage? That is by recruiting more people into the profession being hired on into permanent positions within our province,” she said.