COVID pandemic, workload taking heavy toll on BC nurses

Nurses burning out

A report by the BC Nurses Unions is exposing the overwhelming toll the COVID-19 pandemic is having on nurses.

The latest research highlights the harsh reality from the frontlines and on future impacts on nurse staffing levels across BC.

Findings from a recent survey conducted during the height of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic are offering a sobering look at how difficult working conditions have become for nurses.

The report, The Future of Nursing: Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Nursing Shortage in British Columbia, compiles responses from BCNU members on a series of questions related to staffing and workload, access to PPE and their experience of workplace violence amid the pandemic.

The findings show many nurses report they have now reached the point where emotional and physical toll of the pandemic has become too much to manage.

“Thirty-five per cent of nurses surveyed said the experience of the pandemic has led them to consider leaving nursing altogether. Fifty-one per cent of those working in the ER and ICU said the same which is especially worrisome given the lack of specialty-trained nurses in the system right now. This is heartbreaking,” said Danette Thomsen, BCNU interim vice president.

“These nurses have been dedicated to their patients since before the pandemic, but the fragility of the health-care system and the lack of investments in their profession is bringing them to the point where they don’t know how much longer they can continue.”

A staggering 85 per cent of nurses reported their mental health had worsened since the pandemic, and 65 per cent said their physical health had declined.

When it came to workloads, 76 per cent said they’d seen an increase compared to before the pandemic; 68 per cent reported that staffing was inadequate over the last three months.

Thomsen said it’s critical the government pays attention to these latest findings to mitigate the devastating impacts on BC’s healthcare system, especially as the province continues to manage the fourth wave.

“We are seeing these statistics play out in our health-care settings as staffing levels reach lows that are forcing some nurses, including those who have only just started their careers, to question how much longer they can commit to this fight,” said Thomsen.

“Without immediate investments and swift action by the government, we are truly concerned that access to quality, safe health care will continue to deteriorate at the cost of patient care and our nurses.”

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