British Columbia is experiencing one of the worst nursing shortages it has ever experienced, and there are some actors contributing to the problem. First, there is a lot of nurses leaving the profession, and that is causing an increased amount of stress for those who are left. More nurses are being hired to replace those exiting the workforce, but that new labour force has to be trained and acclimated to the high-stress job, which can put even more stress on a system that can’t afford much more.
However, one of the main issues is retention, not recruitment. A core group of dedicated nurses has remained active, but most nurses get burned out quickly, some of them exiting their position after only working in them for a handful of months. Those in charge at the health authority haven’t done enough to address the issue, and the environment at the various places of work for nurses is growing more toxic as nurses realize the stresses that come with the job.
In terms of the job market for nurses in BC, there are plenty of positions that need to be filled. It has been estimated that there will be a national shortage of nearly 60,000 nurses throughout all of Canada by 2022. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean a nurse can just get a position at any hospital, despite the fact those hospitals desperately need the help. Since the government controls the system, the hospitals constantly have to deal with reduced budgets and closed hospitals. Hospitals are often integrated to reduce cost, and without the money in the budget to pay nurses, they can’t hire the help they need.
BC and the entire nation of Canada have started working to better retention rates, and they hope to see rates improve over time. There have been some positives over the last few years as well. The number of full-time nurse practitioners has increased by 5.8 percent since 2007, and there has been an increase in young nurse practitioners by 8.7 percent in the same time. Nurses in the age range of 35 through 55 have decreased by 8.9 percent since 2007, though.
This year, more nurses are scheduled to enter the profession than leave it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean those new nurses will remain in the workforce for long once they see how stressful it is. The number of registered nurse graduates who go on to obtain a nursing license has dropped 3.2 percent since 2013, and the supply of either registered nurses or nurse practitioners has dropped roughly 0.5 percent. Of the total number of regulated nurses through the entire Canadian system, the proportion of them that are either RNs or NPs has dropped.
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