WATCH: Why nurses’ working conditions should concern you

Advertising campaign hopes to rally support for B.C. nurses

  • Problems existed long before COVID-19
  • Health care system critically short staffed

Nurses in B.C. are stressed, exhausted, worn out, and thinking about leaving an already critically short-staffed health care system.

That from the BC Nurses Union (BCNU), which is asking for the public’s help to rally government support amid staff burnout, which it says has “reached a level never seen before.”

The union has launched an advertising campaign to shine a light on the struggles B.C. healthcare staff face.

An ad aimed at audiences on TV and digital platforms has a tense, dark, almost horror movie-feel to it. It shows a nurse mentally crumbling under the pressure of too many sick and hurting patients calling her for help. She walks toward someone on a stretcher in the hall, turns around, and several more appear behind her.

A troubling aspect of the ad, which is also very real according to UNBC president Aman Grewal, are the numerous patients being treated in the hallway because the facility ran out of beds.

“That’s our reality. The noises, the sounds in the background, that is what we hear on a daily basis in a healthcare setting like that,” she said.

She said the public is already feeling the effect of an overburdened healthcare system, with delayed surgeries, deferred care, and longer wait times.

This problem was a reality years before the pandemic, which only exaggerated it further, she said.

According to a survey conducted by BCNU, 82 per cent of B.C. nurses said their mental health is suffering and 35 per cent said they are considering quitting. BCNU said nurse-to-patient ratios are overwhelming, and workload continues to increase.

Grewal said it’s not uncommon for staff to work without breaks for 12-hour shifts and to get called back to work before they even get home.

BCNU said the province will need more than 26,000 nurses by 2031.

“It won’t happen, I’m sorry to say. I wish it could,” Grewal said. In February, the government announced 602 new nursing seats but she doesn’t think it’s nearly enough.

With the public’s help, the union is calling on the government to finally address the issue with comprehensive solutions and funding.

Adding seats to nursing programs is an important step. Grewal said UBC had 860 applicants to their nursing program but can only take 120 students.

Internationally trained nurses are already in the province, she said, but it can take up to five years to be certified. Grewal said that needs to happen sooner.

Work-life balance for staff needs to be addressed to prevent burn out, too, she said.

BCNU established a website for people to learn more, helpbcnurses.ca.

The union is asking people to contact their local MLA and urge the government to show greater support.

The website allows visitors to send an auto generated message to a local MLA, urging them to address the dire situation.

The province did not respond to a request for comment by deadline. But according to the 2021-22 budget, the health care spending is forecast to grow from $23.8 billion to $27 billion by 2024-25. Another $300 million is earmarked over three years for more surgeries and diagnostic scans.

The province has also announced money for 602 new nursing seats at public post-secondary institutions throughout the province. The new seats include 362 registered nursing seats, 40 registered psychiatric nursing seats, 20 nurse practitioner seats and 180 licensed practical nurse seats at 17 public post-secondary institutions.

Published 2022-04-05 by David Hanson

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