More nurses than usual are considering leaving the profession after COVID-19, due to lack of support and high stress levels, according to a new survey from the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario.
The poll released Wednesday asked 2,100 registered nurses across Ontario between January 29 and February 22 how they managed their work and life over the past 14 months, and how they envisioned their profession after the COVID-19.
The investigation was commissioned after the suicide of a Toronto-area nurse in January and subsequent calls by others for more mental health support and paid sick time to tackle widespread nurse burnout. .
The results of the survey show that 13% of nurses aged 26 to 35 plan to leave the profession for good after the pandemic.
“Losing so many nurses at an early stage in their careers would have a profound and lasting effect on the functioning of our health system, so we need to take this very seriously and act immediately,” said Doris. Grinspun, general manager of the association.
Overall, the association said it projects 15.6 percent of nurses will leave the profession within a year, including those who retire and those who choose to leave early. This is higher than the usual rate of nurse loss in Ontario of 4.8%.
The results show that 95.7% of nurses said the pandemic affected their jobs, with the highest percentage – 31.6% – experiencing very high stress levels.
In the survey, only 26.2% of nurses said they took time off work to deal with stress, anxiety or other mental health issues during the pandemic. The majority of those who sought support did so through their friends and family.
To get help, 8.2% used their employment assistance programs, while 52.3% classified provincial assistance as “very poor” or “poor”.
In an interview, Grinspun said the association will hold focus groups to talk with nurses about their desire to leave and discuss retention strategies in light of the survey results, but added that she understands the exhaustion that many feel.
“We won’t go in the middle of a war with COVID, but we can’t do it anymore,” Grinspun said.
As of March 31, ICU admissions in Ontario hit their highest level since the start of the pandemic, a milestone that Grinspun says is of great concern for the mental health of nurses.
“Some have already left due to stress,” Grinspun said. “Many more aren’t leaving just because they don’t want to abandon their patients and staff, but it comes at a cost, and that’s why they will be leaving after the pandemic. “
The association said it was already concerned about the sustainability of the nursing workforce, given the unusually high number of those ready to retire over the next two years, especially in circles community care and leadership positions. Ontario already has the lowest RN to population ratio in the country.
In light of the findings, the association released a list of five recommendations for the province, including increased support for early-career and mid-career nurses and the hiring of more nurses to mitigate increasing levels of nursing staff. stress and burnout.
Other recommendations include increasing admission to nursing programs, expanding the number of nurse practitioners, and implementing a succession plan for executive nurses and faculty nurses. – many of whom have said they plan to retire after the pandemic.
In Wednesday’s statement, association president Morgan Hoffarth said that if the province implemented the association’s recommendations, it would “alleviate the post-pandemic hemorrhage in the nursing workforce.” .
Responding to the association’s recommendations, David Jensen, spokesperson for Ontario Minister of Health Christine Elliott, said the government had spent $ 8 million on its fall COVID-19 preparedness plan for hire 800 additional nurses across the province, among other supports for new nurses.
“It is also important to note that in the recently released budget our government commits to providing over $ 1 billion to protect our brave frontline health heroes, like nurses, by purchasing protective equipment. individual, ”Jensen said.
Although Grinspun said the hiring of more nurses was welcome, she added that 800 more nurses are not enough to help those who are exhausted, nor to help the profession stay afloat after the pandemic.