A 2022 study of 762 RPNs by WeRPN has highlighted the disturbing state of nursing right now.
Higher workloads, less time off and worsening workplace culture is now the norm for the majority of Ontario nurses surveyed.
Here, we'll explore the results that uncover these issues - and suggest a new way to fix staffing shortages and make working life easier for nurses.
1. Workloads are increasing
A shocking 92% of nurses say their workload is increasing - with 83% taking on more responsibilities, and 79% saying they are often missing breaks and meals.
Sixty-nine percent now care for more people, while 68% say they lack the time or resources to provide adequate care.
Unsurprisingly, stress levels are up too, with 91% nurses saying their daily experiences are more stressful than they were a year ago.
Staffing shortages remain a significant concern; 78% nurses are working extra shifts or overtime, and 31% don't feel they can say no to additional work.
These results show how badly we need immediate change in our healthcare system, so our nurses can do their vital work without being crushed by it.
At the same time, patients themselves have more complex health challenges, often presenting with co-morbidities that need to be simultaneously addressed.
Canada’s population is also aging – the latest Statistics Canada report states that there are now over 100,000 people aged 85 years and older living in nursing care facilities in the country.
This requires specialized care from a highly-trained workforce, led in number by nurses and PSWs. When those healthcare professionals are stretched beyond their capacity, with no foreseeable changes in sight, patient care is ultimately compromised.
While patient care needs are increasing, nurses are drowning in backlogs due to Covid-19, staffing shortages and worsening mental health. Fourin 5 RPNs surveyed (79%) have experienced moral distress as a result of their job as a nurse over the last two to three years.
(In this study, moral distress was identified as an emotional state arising from situations where nurses feel that the ethically correct action to take differs from what they are tasked to do. Alarmingly, this figure has risen considerably from 68% since December 2020, a time when Covid-19 was affecting healthcare with strict restrictions and high patient need.)
Nurses also aren't seeing wage increases or clear fixes for staffing shortages.
2. More work, less time off
The WeRPN survey made it clear more nurses are feeling the strain of higher workloads, without the benefit of earned time off.
Sixty-seven percent of respondents reported feeling pressured to work overtime, often without additional compensation.
Staffing shortages are hitting home as well, with a staggering 82% saying they simply can't afford to take time off because there aren't enough hands on deck.
What's more, among those whose workloads have increased, 35% are putting in unpaid overtime hours.
3. Culture getting worse
Sixty-eight percent of nurses say their workplace culture has got worse over the past year.
Staffing shortages are a significant factor in this, with 97% saying shortages have had a negative impact on their work environment.
Collaboration, a cornerstone of giving good care as a team, is also suffering - 58% report having less time to work together with colleagues.
Perhaps saddest to see is 34% of respondents saying they have no close relationships at work, which can be isolating and stressful.
Alarmingly, these challenges are not just affecting employees but extending to patient care as well, with 91% observing a negative impact due to staffing shortages.
The consequences of a staffing crisis
- 83% of surveyed nurses report having to take on more responsibility, miss breaks and meals (79%) and are asked to care for more patients (69%)
- Nearly one in two nurses in this study (47%) are actively considering leaving the profession
- Some Ontario nurses are leaving public healthcare for for-profit agencies
The top reasons cited for motivating nurses to leave the profession are current wages (86%), current workload (78%) and compensation practices that are deemed unfair (75%).
Nurses are also watching as colleagues in the public system are leaving their positions in favour of for-profit nursing agencies that offer them better compensation, or simply leaving the profession altogether.
This often means nurses sometimes have less flexibility and control of where and how they work. The challenges for healthcare organizations working with staffing agencies are also prominent, as team dynamics and culture is challenged with rising temporary staff and unsustainable spending proves to be problematic
What can be done now?
We love that WeRPN is advocating for important systemic changes in our healthcare system.
Alongside this work, Florence is busy helping nurses on the ground. Our solutions can start making a difference for nurses immediately, while also making the lives of those who manage their schedules so much easier.
We are providing both nurses and healthcare organizations with another option. It's fair, transparent and gives everyone more flexibility and control.
- Control and flexibility: Nurses working with Florence are able to set their own schedules, picking up as many or as few shifts as they’d like, so it works with their schedules and lives.
- Cutting out admin time: We’ve modernized the staffing process so nurses are not spending time emailing back and forth and manually keeping track of documents or timesheets. This is all automated directly within the Florence app.
- Work at your favourite locations: Florence nurses are able to favourite healthcare facilities they enjoy working at so they are notified of shifts there when there’s a staffing need. This is great for nurses and also for the patients who benefit from continuity of care.
- Ongoing learning: The perks of Florence don’t end at booking shifts. We support nurses with ongoing training and learning opportunities through our proprietary learning platform, Florence Academy.
What can you do?
We want to help you give your nursing staff a well-deserved break! When most health organizations are sinking under the weight of a staffing crisis, unable to do more than get by, you can stand out by being proactive.
Using Florence, you can:
- Send out extra, last-minute and urgent shifts to your own staff via SMS instead of calling down a list. Your staff will love this new approach - it gives them time and flexibility to review their schedules and they can accept extra shifts in a guilt-free way.
- Build a list of trusted temporary Florence healthcare professionals who can cover shifts that remain unfilled. This gives you the ability to stay fully staffed even when your team needs time off.
Be part of the solution
Although the state of nursing may be in a precarious position, there are innovative solutions available.
While unsafe workloads are growing, Florence can lessen the burden by offering access to our network of over 5,000 healthcare professionals who are ready to fill needed shifts.