Exhausted and overworked, they’re fleeing the sector. Unless we act now, we’ll pay a price for decades.
Marilou Gagnon, PhD, is a professor in nursing at University of Victoria. Damien Contandriopoulos, PhD, is a professor in nursing at the University of Victoria.
In fact, these two indicators were paramount in justifying the implementation of the most restrictive public health measures before the availability of vaccines.
But coming out of the third wave, we learned these measures were largely insufficient in preserving the capacity of our health-care workers and our health-care system.
Furthermore, we learned that the pressure, demands and moral distress generated by the management of COVID-19 in the health-care system exacerbated an already dire shortage of health-care workers.
In the first quarter of 2021, the health-care sector experienced the most significant increase (39 per cent) in job vacancies in Canada. In June, those vacancies represented about 20 per cent of the job vacancies in the country. That’s 98,700 vacant jobs, half of which are nursing positions.
Nurses have been particularly impacted by COVID-19 and the way it was managed. This has resulted in an unprecedented mass exodus of nurses, which continues today and will continue for the rest of 2021 — and beyond.
Throughout the summer, there have been numerous reports of closures of acute care beds and emergency departments due to the nursing shortage. Alarms have also been raised about the unsafe working conditions resulting from severe understaffing of nurses in acute care settings.
These reports only scratch the surface of what is happening in our health-care system. The full extent of the nursing shortage and its impact on the health-care system has remained largely hidden from the public despite rising COVID-19 cases.