Nursing Shortages and the impact on Nursing Practice

Nurses are tired. Working overtime is normal, even expected. Wards are crowded with patients waiting to be seen but often there is not enough staff to meet their needs.

At various times throughout Saskatchewan's history, the province has experienced a shortage of nurses. The current shortage is perhaps the most pressing as now, more than ever before, nurses are receiving a Saskatchewan education but are then leaving the province in pursuit of higher salaries.

SUN's Febuary 2006 correspondence to the province's Minister of Health outlines their concerns about the nursing shortage:

"The Saskatchewan Union of Nurses is concerned that Saskatchewan is currently suffering a chronic and deepening shortage of RNs and RPNs, producing negative consequences for safe patient care, positive patient outcomes, and public access to needed services. This nursing shortage also has negative consequences for the profession, damaging the province's ability to retain experienced nurses, and attract new nurses to the profession and to the province.

Saskatchewan has the worst RN retention rate of all the provinces, with no progress since 1997.

RN supply has declined by .5% since 2000, compared to a 5.7 % increase in Manitoba, and a 6% increase in the Canadian RN workforce. Only Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia suffered net decreases in the RN workforce from 2000-2004. 1

33.2% of RNs (both new graduates and experienced nurses) who graduated in Saskatchewan have moved to other provinces, primarily Alberta and British Columbia. Only 66.8% of graduates from Saskatchewan nursing programs who were employed in Canada in 2004 were employed in Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan has made no progress in retention of Saskatchewan RNs since 1997, when the retention rate was 67%. "

Nursing shortages take their toll on those practising in the province. Some nurses leave the profession because of excessive amounts of overtime work and others leave because of the stress of having excessive nursing workload with little or no support. In 1999, during job action taken by SUN, nurses took their old and worn out shoes to the steps of the legislature to symbolize those who had left either the province or the profession because of working conditions. Photo link of shoes on steps.

Workforce Trends of Registered Nurses in Canada, 2004, CIHI 2005, pp 50.