How Can We Increase the Number of Nurses in North America?
By Veronica Letourneau
July 31st, 2022
Photo: The Conversation (Source)
The decline of nurses in North America is rapid and concerning. With the increase of patients, there should be more nurses on staff. Yet, hospitals are still somehow losing nurses more than they’ve ever had before.
A big problem in Canada is that hospitals are making more of an effort to recruit new nurses instead of trying to keep current employees. Some have speculated that the reason for this is that new recruitment is cheaper. Wages for an experienced full-time nurse cost a lot more than for a fresh, inexperienced nurse. This is indeed one reason for the shortage; and the way to keep experienced nurses on staff is simple: give them proper wages and stop prioritizing only “recruits”. Hiring recruits is fine, but the lack of respect for the senior employees means there will now be more new nurses that have less experience, and who are less efficient than the senior level ones.
Not keeping more senior nurses mainly comes from poor management of the hospitals. Nurses cannot control their personal schedules, as asking for days off can be difficult. They are also forced to overwork (yes partly due to the pandemic, although this was even an issue beforehand) and are sometimes forced to take on double shifts to cover co-workers who are sick, or when there is a shortage of staff available due to the lack of effort on retaining senior level nurses. If there is a better focus on staff needs then not only will nurses' mental health improve, but so will their quality of work. This will create a less toxic work environment and encourage nurses to stay. The exhaustion nurses face with overworked schedules makes it so that they cannot take care of patients as well as they would like. In other words, they cannot give as much care to the patients as needed due to the volume of patients and depletion of staff members.
Nurses leaving their position is not just a problem in Canada, there is also a lack of nurses in the US. While there is better pay for nurses in the US, they still face similar long work-hours. Hospitals in the US also lack candidates since higher education has become a bigger requirement to get nursing positions. A chance to increase nurses’ interest in the field is by increasing programs to ensure nurses can get their MSN (Masters of Science in Nursing). Also, by creating more programs, which can help pay tuition, would help the shortages in the US and thus stop Canadian nurses from leaving to get jobs there instead.
Ultimately, an increase in “nursing” will create more time for nurses to take better care of patients, and thus prevent overworking staff. With a better work environment, including a greater respect for senior level nurses, hospital health care will improve and nurses will want to stay in their positions.