Nursing has always been a demanding career, and in the past two and a half years or so with the COVID-19 pandemic and fallout, that hasn’t been true.
“I’ve been in nursing for about 20 years, but I’ve been working as a health care professional since the ’80s,” said Lenny, an Alberta nurse. “I always wanted to be a nurse.
“I didn’t realize it for months, because you were so caught up in your day-to-day work and just doing your tasks. But ultimately, stress took its toll on my health.” It affected me and I had to seek medical attention,” she said.
Global News has agreed to use a pseudonym for Lenny to protect her from potential job repercussions.
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In the past, Renee has worked in the fields of medicine, day care, palliative care, and family medicine. Just prior to her pandemic, she held a leadership position in infection control at a long-term care facility.
“When I started noticing my physical health was deteriorating, I knew I couldn’t sustain it.
“When I look back trying to summarize what the job was like, the two words that come to mind are constant anguish.
“Going to work like that — ‘I don’t know how I’m going to make it through today, I don’t know what I’m going to face today, personally or as a team’ — is like going to work with a big, heavy ball in your leg.” It was something.
“But you did it.
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In the spring of 2020, the challenges of nursing — stress, tight schedules, staffing challenges, long hours, high stakes, tough decisions, personal health risks, and mental health spills — got worse.
The stress of frontline hospital nursing — critical illness and death, emotional family and loved ones, dealing with disagreements, paperwork and bringing it all home — has increased exponentially.
With protests outside hospitals, several Alberta nurses told Global News that political rhetoric and polarization will only exacerbate the situation.
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Renee quit her long-term care job and started working as a community nurse at the Primary Care Network (PCN).
“I wanted to come back with my patients and feel like I was making a difference,” she explained. Finding other positions related to your profession gives you a lot of autonomy, and once you get a taste of it, it can be very empowering and very rewarding.”
for Registered Nurse Ali Ryanthe pandemic situation was the final push she needed to make a change.
“I just wanted to go home and not be mentally exhausted.
“I love nursing. Mentally, it was just the right time.”
After working on neurosurgery and subsequent recovery, Ryan finally decided to enroll in a medical cosmetology course.
“That’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I’ve always been a pretty creative person, but when the pandemic hit and everyone was so resourceful and burnt out, I was like, ‘OK, change. I think I was given a special motivation to say, ‘It’s time to
she now working in aestheticscontinues a casual shift at the hospital while offering cosmetic injections.
“I love the hospital. I love my colleagues. I love the nature of my work.”
“Mentally, I have to take care of my health, and I have to be a mother, a good friend, a good family member, not just a ‘nurse ant’. I want to do all these things.” If so, you have to set boundaries, and I think that’s fine. “
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Ryan says he has more time at work and is able to spend more time with his two young children, which has improved his work-life balance.
“You can’t take good care of yourself if you hate what you do. We are lucky enough to be able to move around as nurses and I think we need to be on the lookout for those opportunities. ”
Work has also become more positive, she says.
“You help people feel beautiful and you inspire them.
“There’s nothing better than an interaction where people walk away and say, ‘Oh, I like it.’
Schools and companies offering cosmetic injection courses have seen a significant increase in enrollment over the past two years. Calgary’s Frida Academy has recorded record enrollments in 2021, doubling her previous year’s numbers. More courses had to be added to meet demand, a spokesperson told Global News.
Renee and Ryan aren’t the only ones to leave the front line. Unions representing Alberta’s nurses are noticing a definite trend.
“This is a common refrain we’ve heard from nurses in all kinds of practice settings,” said Cameron Westhead, vice president of United Nurses in Alberta.
“Whether transitioning from the ICU to a less acute type of care delivery, or from full-time to part-time or part-time to casual, nurses are experiencing an incredible amount of stress and can reduce it. I’m looking for a way to do that, and have something akin to work-life balance.”
Unions say problems that existed before COVID-19 — nurse shortages, government-health worker relations — have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
“If you are dealing with stressful situations such as workplace violence, forced overtime, or staff shortages, your work will be recognized as important and important in providing healthcare to the people of Alberta. We need to,” said Westhead.
“We are denied leave, mandated overtime due to understaffing, and sometimes lack of training.
“When connect carewhich is an electronic documentation method, nurses are asked to do this training in their spare time and are not paid for it or are asked to do it without pay.
“It’s just that one demand is put on top of another and eventually collapses.”
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Unions say they are noticing more nurses moving away from certain wards (particularly ICUs and other critical care wards) and into other wards, such as recovery, where shifts are less common. rice field.
“We’ve had so many nurses coming in from the cardiovascular ICU, and the ICU coming into the recovery room,” Ryan said. All you see all day is chronic suffering. “
UNA also notes that Alberta’s nurses are transitioning from full-time or part-time to part-time.
“Casual nurses have more control over their schedules,” explains Westhead. “They are not required to show up and can refuse shifts, which is not the case for part-time or full-time nurses.”
Over 25% of nurses working at AHS and Covenant Health are now part-time.
Westhead understands why other nursing positions are attractive.
“In settings such as aesthetics and community care and primary care, there are far fewer shifts and therefore far more predictability in terms of how family and professional lives are reconciled.”
The Alberta Health Service says it has increased its nursing workforce and now has 1,900 more nurses than before the pandemic.
AHS recruited 1,188 RN/RPN graduates. This represents almost 90% of the 2021/22 Alberta RN graduates.
But large hospitals in Edmonton and Calgary, where demand is highest, continue to be understaffed, especially in general and emergency care, according to AHS.
“We are seeing an increase in vacancies as we are actively hiring to add more employees,” AHS spokesperson James Wood told Global News.
Data show that both AHS and Covenant Health have seen an increase in nurse turnover rates during the pandemic. In 2018/19, 459 full-time or part-time registered nurses resigned or retired from her AHS (2%). In 2021/22, that number was 686 (2.8%). (For Covenant Health, it went from 2.7% to 2.9%).
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Could AHS or Covenant Health have made any changes that would cause Ryan or Renee to consider staying?
Additional resources would help, Rennie said, adding more autonomy and easing “top-heavy” organizational structures would help as well.
Ryan says the system is broken in many ways. She wasn’t sure if any changes would have kept her from staying full-time, but she believes listening to frontline staff about what they’re going through would go a long way.
“Flexibility in working hours, flexibility in shifts, and allowing people to take the time off they need” will also help promote a better work-life balance, she said.
“Having more part-time lines that can share full-time positions is very beneficial as employees are stuck in full-time rotations and are unhealthy. They work seven days in a row. It’s not good for anyone.”
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Westhead says the union believes making current nurses feel valued and supported is a good first step.
“Senior nurse retention is one of the most important factors for mentoring new graduates and nurses new to the practice of their specialty,” he added.
“I think what nurses want is hope.
“We know that sometimes exceptional circumstances, such as pandemics or natural disasters, require us to do more than our usual contributions. But we also want to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. ”
Ryan wants to encourage all nurses to think about their health and well-being.
“The options are there.
“Just open your eyes, be a little braver, embrace that leap of faith, and go for it.”