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President's Message

SOUNDING THE STAFFING ALARM

Christine Sorensen

Twenty-five thousand. That’s how many nurses BC health employers will need to hire before 2029, according to the provincial government’s latest labour market forecast. 

It’s an eyebrow-raising number. Ask any nurse currently working short-staffed and struggling with long shifts and extended workweeks and they’ll surely express skepticism about this target being met. 

BC already has the lowest ratio of nurses to patients in the country, and vacancies and unfilled lines exist at almost every health-care facility in the province. 

Last year, nurses in the NBA worked more than two million hours of overtime at a cost of over $162 million. It’s a massive outlay driven by a severe shortage of both regular and specialty-educated nurse positions. 

Long shifts and extended workweeks are bad for patient care and harmful to nurses. Our own research shows that one in five RNs are very likely to leave the profession altogether. Some of the most commonly cited reasons were workload, burnout, and a perceived inability to provide safe, competent care. 

This is a serious concern for us all. Demand for nurses will only increase as our population ages and grows, creating even more pressure on the existing nurse workforce. We need to plan better. 

This was the message we brought to Victoria in October when I and the rest of your BCNU council met with decision makers from all political parties. The two-day visit was an opportunity to make it clear that BCNU is committed to finding solutions to health-system challenges affecting nurses everywhere. 

We told health minister Dix that dedicated funding is needed to address the critical nurse staffing shortage so that patients’ needs can be met, and we educated all MLAs about the crisis facing our health-care system. 

We’ll be bringing this same message to the public next year, and telling all British Columbians that nurses provide an invaluable service – and that we are worth it. 

I’ll be sharing more information about this important campaign in the months ahead. In the meantime, I’m optimistic that you’ll join us on this journey as we build on the successes of 2019, and make our voice heard in 2020. 

Christine Sorensen
President, BC Nurses' Union

Updated: 1/2/2020 9:04 AM

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