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Staffing shortages, patient safety key concerns among NSGEU nurses

May 6th to May 12th marks Nursing Week, when nurses around the world celebrate their profession and the role they play in the healthcare system. This year, the theme of Canada’s national Nursing Week is “Nursing: A Leading Force for Change.” And it’s clear from the results of our recent research into issues of nursing job satisfaction, burnout and patient safety here in Nova Scotia, that change is what is needed, now.

Our research – which included a series of focus groups and online survey – confirms much of what we already knew: that understaffing is a real issue for our nurses. 58.5 per cent of nurses say the staffing level in their workplace is “unacceptable” and prevents them from doing their jobs effectively. In the past 12 months, just 5.5 per cent of nurses say they haven’t worked short-staffed.

“This report clearly shows us that our nurses are being stretched too thin, and that the problem is only getting worse,” said NSGEU President Joan Jessome, “With almost 3,000 nurses eligible to retire in the next five years, we need to seriously address the issue of understaffing in our hospitals, before it is too late. While hiring staff may be costly, it certainly cannot cost more than overtime, stress and sick leave, and the countless readmissions that are a direct result of not having enough nurses to care for patients.”

Understaffing is having a direct impact on patient care, as well as the working lives of our nurses. An overwhelming majority of nurses surveyed (95.7 per cent) believe “working short” adversely affects patient safety. And many nurses who reported working short also report witnessing “near misses” or adverse patient events, including medication errors, as a result.

“Nurses need more than a simple ‘Thank you’ in honour of Nursing Week,’” Jessome said, “They need support from all of us – the government, their employer, and the union – and our commitment to help improve their working conditions in a meaningful way.”

The NSGEU has also shared its findings with the College of Registered Nurses of Nova Scotia (CRNNS), the Capital District Health Authority (where many NSGEU nurses are employed), and with the Department of Health, in the hopes of working cooperatively on these issues.

 For more information, or to arrange an interview with NSGEU President Joan Jessome, please contact Holly Fraughton, Communications Officer (hfraughton@nsgeu.ca or 471-1781)

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