Overcoming Nursing Shortages at Canadian Hospitals

Why the Nursing Shortage Is Set To Get Worse

Right now, nurses, physicians, other clinical and non-clinical staff, including managers, directors and executives, are pulling Canadian hospitals through the pandemic. Unfortunately, many of these staff members are completely exhausted and ready to retire.

The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario conducted a survey in 2021 and found that one in every 20 nurses plan to leave the workforce now or immediately after the pandemic.

Nurses are now working longer days, with little to no vacation time, in hopes of keeping up with the never-ending surge in hospital admissions. Add in the fact that staff members are taking more sick days than ever before and are leaving their professions in droves, and hospitals suddenly have a major staffing crisis on their hands.

“What’s really scary is we are approaching that worst-case scenario where we’re seeing a significant percentage of healthcare workers who are unable to work right now because of their own illness, or because of burnout and just not being able to carry on,” says Dr. Katharine Smart, president of the Canadian Medical Association. “And that’s a setup for disaster when you have that mismatch between the volume of patients needing care and the healthcare workers on the ground able to deliver it.”

With 48.2% of registered nurses in Ontario expressing that the pandemic has negatively impacted their work-life balance, hospital and nursing leaders need to find ways to better protect their staff. But before hospital executives can prevent nurses from burning out and leaving, they must first understand the full impact of COVID-19 on nurses.
It is anticipated that once the pandemic is over, there’s going to be a tsunami of staff leaving.  We have a whole workforce that’s waiting to get us through the pandemic. They are exhausted and disheartened.  They will either trigger their pension and retire or leave the profession altogether.

Since HOOPP (Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan) is one of the most prestigious pension plans in all of Canada, it’s not surprising that so many staff are planning to swap their overwhelming workloads for retirement as soon as possible.
Nurses are so incredibly short-handed that non-healthcare staff have been contributing to the care of patients at the bedside. However, nurses have to train, mentor and essentially oversee these staff members, exacerbating nurse burnout and pushing more people to leave the industry.

If hospitals want their exhausted and retirement-ready nurses to become loyal and stick around for years to come, they’ll have to start improving working conditions immediately. Find out why below:

Understanding the Impact of Nurse Burnout at Canadian Hospitals

No nurse wants to feel like they couldn’t do enough to help their patients. Yet, being overworked at a hospital deprives nurses of the time they need to do their jobs effectively.

In a typical acute care unit, [each nurse is] usually looking after four or six patients on day shifts and six to eight patients on nights, [which is now being] stretched to eight to ten patients on day shifts and ten to twelve on night shifts. Everything is reactive right now because they’re working short, going from one patient to another, patching things together as best they can.”

In other words, nurses are so overloaded with work that they no longer have time to deliver patient care proactively.

When you’re working in an environment where you’re running from emergency to emergency, without having enough time for each patient, it becomes easier to miss something critical and make mistakes.

This reactive approach to caring for patients can prevent nurses from meeting the basic standards of care at hospitals, lowering patient satisfaction levels and survival rates.

 Addressing the Nurse Retention Problem at Hospitals With Technology

 Although nursing leaders want to make hospital jobs more appealing and satisfying to better attract and retain nurses, the staffing shortage is interfering with their ability to do so.

After all, the nurse vacancy rate in Ontario currently sits at 20% — a number that will only grow once more senior-level staff start retiring.

It’s much easier to keep nurses than to recruit them. [But to do that], we have to give our nurses [better experiences so they can meet the basic standard of care] in a safe way.

Hospitals can benefit greatly by implementing time-saving technologies for nurses. For example, automating basic communication tasks between nurses and patients while reducing charting duplications can free up time for staff. This can help give nurses the chance to care for patients more proactively, make fewer mistakes and feel more satisfied in their roles.

Hospitals can even integrate these “invisible” technologies — which nurses can use intuitively without needing comprehensive training — into their standard Electronic Medical Record (EMR) platforms, like Meditech, Cerner or Epic, to improve information-sharing.

The bottom line is that hospitals will only be able to secure a loyal nursing workforce by improving the standards of patient care. It’s up to nursing leaders and hospital executives to adopt the proper technology and refine processes that can help them accomplish that.

To learn what technologies can help your hospital save time for staff, reduce burnout and improve nurse and patient satisfaction levels, get in touch with a PX Solutions representative here.