BC nurses’ urgent message to government: ‘Safe staffing saves lives’

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  • Nursepatient ratios are needed to retain nurses and save our healthcare system
    Hundreds of nurses from communities across the province are in Vancouver this week and calling on the
    provincial government to take urgent action to address BC’s worsening nurse shortage. They warn that
    nurses are continuing to leave the profession, leading to a staffing crisis that threatens the health of all
    BC patients.
    “The shortage has reached such dire levels that we regularly see temporary closures of emergency
    rooms in communities around BC,” says BCNU President Aman Grewal.
    A severe staffing shortage and increased patient care needs have resulted in untenable conditions in
    emergency departments everywhere, including recently at Surrey Memorial Hospital and the University
    Hospital of Northern BC in Prince George.
    Grewal notes that nurses overwhelmingly cite high workloads and insufficient staffing levels as the top
    reasons they’re considering leaving. She adds that nurses are experiencing unheard of levels of moral
    distress from witnessing the ongoing and negative impact on patient care.
    “The new normal for a working nurse is a 16to18hour shift without a break and no support, and that’s
    leading to high levels of burnout and exhaustion,” she reports. “We are seeing the devastating impacts
    on working nurses now who are burning out as they try to carry the system on their backs.”
    Grewal says an agreement reached in April between the Nurses’ Bargaining Association and the
    province to implement minimum nursepatient ratios across healthcare settings has the promise to
    improve the staffing and practice conditions needed to keep nurses in the profession and improve patient
    care.
    “Safe staffing saves lives. A staffing model that includes nursepatient ratios, when properly
    implemented, will help us retain and recruit the nurses we so desperately need.” Grewal says her
    members will be watching to ensure the government keeps its promise of safe patient care and make
    nursepatient ratios a reality.
    In California and Australia, where ratios have been mandated, there’s been a noticeable improvement in
    safe patient care, decreased nurse fatigue, and increased recruitment and retention. All the more reason,
    says Grewal, to get to work here in BC.
    The latest workforce numbers from Stats Can show there are currently 5,010 nurse vacancies in BC, and
    by 2031, nearly 27,000 nurses will be needed to keep up with the healthcare needs of an expanding
    population. (media@bcnu.org)

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