‘Safe staffing saves lives’: BC nurses to Province

Nurse-patient ratios are needed to retain nurses and save health-care system


HUNDREDS of nurses from communities across the province are in Vancouver this week calling on the provincial government to take urgent action to address BC’s worsening nurse shortage. They warn that nurses are continuing to leave the profession, leading to a staffing crisis that threatens the health of all BC patients.

“The shortage has reached such dire levels that we regularly see temporary closures of emergency rooms in communities around BC,” said BC Nurses’ Union (BCNU) President Aman Grewal on Wednesday.

A severe staffing shortage and increased patient care needs have resulted in untenable conditions in emergency departments everywhere, including recently at Surrey Memorial Hospital and the University Hospital of Northern BC in Prince George.

Grewal noted that nurses overwhelmingly cite high workloads and insufficient staffing levels as the top reasons they’re considering leaving. She added that nurses are experiencing unheard of levels of moral distress from witnessing the ongoing and negative impact on patient care.

“The new normal for a working nurse is a 16-to-18-hour shift without a break and no support, and that’s leading to high levels of burnout and exhaustion,” she warned. “We are seeing the devastating impacts on working nurses now who are burning out as they try to carry the system on their backs.”

Grewal said an agreement reached in April between the Nurses’ Bargaining Association and the Province to implement minimum nurse-patient ratios across health-care settings has the promise to improve the staffing and practice conditions needed to keep nurses in the profession and improve patient care.

She added; “Safe staffing saves lives. A staffing model that includes nurse-patient ratios, when properly implemented, will help us retain and recruit the nurses we so desperately need.” Grewal said her members will be watching to ensure the government keeps its promise of safe patient care and make nurse-patient ratios a reality.

In California and Australia, where ratios have been mandated, there’s been a noticeable improvement in safe patient care, decreased nurse fatigue, and increased recruitment and retention. All the more reason, said Grewal, to get to work here in BC.

The latest workforce numbers from Stats Can show there are currently 5,010 nurse vacancies in BC, and by 2031, nearly 27,000 nurses will be needed to keep up with the health-care needs of an expanding population.