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BC nurses past their ‘breaking point,’ survey finds

While we’re approaching our second year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the BC Nurses Union (BCNU) is highlighting issues they are viewing within British Columbia's healthcare system.

A new survey conducted by the BCNU in May 2021, the height of the third wave, has revealed the full extent that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take on thousands of nurses.

Unfortunately, many of their findings in this latest survey aren't surprising.

As the union puts it, “Nurses were at a breaking point long before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the added stresses they have endured throughout this extensive public health emergency have greatly impacted their mental and physical health.”

82% of those surveyed say their mental health has worsened during the pandemic, while 65% say their physical health has also declined.

Two-thirds of respondents told the BCNU that they have experienced a high amount of stress at work during the pandemic, and only 5% of nurses said that their work-life balance has not been affected.

In fact, many nurses said that the pandemic has led them to consider leaving the profession entirely.

</who>Photo credit: BCNU

35% of all nurses said that the experience from the pandemic has made them more likely to leave nursing in the next two years, and 51% of Emergency and ICU nurses said the same.

Younger nurses more often said that the pandemic has made them more likely to leave their specialty or to leave nursing altogether.

The survey suggests that this finding is important because provincial planning for staffing in health care depends on the assumption that nurses will stay in the profession; if younger nurses leave, we won’t have enough new students to replace them.

“It is critical that the government take action now to improve working conditions for nurses in all health care settings across the province, whether it’s long-term care, acute care, or community care,” said the BCNU.

“Without bold leadership and significant investments, the health care system will continue to struggle to retain educated nursing professionals — the backbone of our health-care system responsible for providing the care British Columbians need and deserve.”

More than two-thirds of nurses who responded said that staffing was inadequate over the last three months, and more than three-quarters said their workload has increased since the beginning of the pandemic.

The impact on inadequate staffing in the past three months caused 74% of individuals to say that it has affected their practice standards.

"A healthy future requires investing in more nurses, and we insist that the government provide short and long-term solutions that focus on the health of the system as a whole," says BCNU President Aman Grewal.

"As the pandemic wears on, we are asking that a plan be developed that addresses the crippling staffing shortage, unrealistic working conditions, and recruitment and retention of nurses in every part of this province."

To read the full 'Future of Nursing in BC' report, click here.

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