Video Series: Nurses Put Patient Safety First!

Halifax – Nova Scotia’s new Health Minister recently acknowledged that we will soon face an “alarming” shortage of healthcare professionals in this province, including a shortage of approximately 800 nurses in the next five years.

“As the union representing over 2,600 Registered Nurses in Nova Scotia, we can safely say that shortage is already upon us,” says NSGEU President Joan Jessome, “We’ve heard it first-hand from our nurses, who say that understaffing is a real issue within our hospitals and healthcare system.”

Our own research shows that 58.5 per cent of nurses say the staffing level in their workplace is “unacceptable” and prevents them from doing their jobs effectively. Understaffing is also having a direct impact on patient care, as well as the working lives of our nurses. An overwhelming majority of nurses we surveyed (95.7 per cent) believe “working short” adversely affects patient safety.

It’s time for change.

We believe nurse-to-patient ratios are essential to providing a safe level of care to Nova Scotians. Nurse-to-patient ratios have already been successfully negotiated by unions in parts of Australia and the United States, where they have proven to be very effective in improving patient safety, reducing patient complications, falls, infections, readmissions, follow-up ER visits and mortality rates.

The NSGEU is now campaigning for the introduction of nurse-to-patient ratios here in Nova Scotia.

“While informal ratios may already be respected in some areas, like the ICU or Operating Room, there are many more areas of our healthcare system that should have set numbers of nurses assigned to care for patients, to make sure Nova Scotians are receiving the best possible care,” Jessome adds.

Through our current collective bargaining efforts, we have proposed that “…A direct care registered nurse shall be assigned to not more than the following number of patients in that unit”:

  • 1 patient in trauma emergency units;
  • 1 patient in operating room units, provided that a minimum of 1 additional circulating nurse and 1 scrub nurse is also available for each patient;
  • 1 patient in critical care units, including but not limited to emergency critical care and intensive care units, Coronary Care Units, Cardiac Catheterization, Renal Dialysis Unit, Burn Unit, Post Anesthetic Care Unit, Cardiovascular Unit;
  • 2 patients in emergency room units and step down units;
  • 4 patients in medical-surgical units, psychiatric units, rehabilitation units and other units not listed above;
  • For Community Mental Health – 60 clients on the General Case Load 25 clients for Intensive Case Management.

Our plan provides an appropriate ratio of nurses to patients and guarantees minimum numbers only, which means they can be adjusted to meet higher patient acuity. It also allows for flexibility so nurses can use their professional judgment to determine appropriate levels of care.

As part of our campaign, we have produced a series of online videos with the help of some of our frontline nurses. This 12-part video series features real nurses, talking about real challenges they face on a daily basis, and how our healthcare system could be strengthened by ensuring there are enough nurses at the bedside.

We have just released the first two videos in this series: an introduction by President Joan Jessome and an NSGEU nurse talking about her own experiences in the workplace. The remaining 10 videos will be released each week; please stay tuned for more videos to come!

For more information on this campaign, or to arrange an interview with NSGEU President Joan Jessome, please contact Holly Fraughton, Communications Officer ( or 471-1781)

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