SUN survey shows 3 out of 5 nurses considered leaving the profession during the last year

Nearly 60 per cent of Saskatchewan’s registered nurses say they’ve considered stepping away from the profession over the last 12 months, and more than 70 per cent say they’ve experienced feelings of anxiety, helplessness, frustration or anger during COVID-19.

The results are from the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN) membership survey, an online questionnaire sent to all SUN members in February and March. SUN reports 1,530 members responded to the survey, giving it a margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 per cent.

SUN president Tracy Zambory said the results show the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the province’s nurses, and it’s only getting worse.

“Without immediate relief, more registered nurses are going to leave the profession,” Zambory said in a media release. “It feels like we’re trying to dig ourselves out of a hole without a shovel.”

Lack of confidence in leadership was a major issue. Nurses gave negative overall ratings to every level of government’s pandemic response, especially the provincial government.

Roughly 70 per cent of those surveyed gave the Sask. Party a negative grade, while 68 per cent gave negative performance ratings to Premier Scott Moe and Health Minister Paul Merriman.

Zambory said SUN members feel unheard by the provincial government, and that’s making a challenging situation even more difficult.

“Every time they work short-staffed, every time the waiting room is full beyond capacity, they’re reminded that the Government of Saskatchewan has stopped listening to their pleas for help,” Zambory said.

Merriman told reporters the survey results weren’t a surprise to the government. He said some comments were similar to reports they’ve heard during consultations.

He said they’re “trying on all fronts” to recruit more nurses. That includes international efforts, like an upcoming mission to the Philippines. The SHA hopes to recruit 150 healthcare workers in fill Registered Nurse, Licensed Practical Nurse, Medical Laboratory Technologist, and Continuing Care Assistant positions.

The province budget also includes plans for a new agency designed to recruit and retain health professionals. Merriman said they plan to have the agency up and running by the fall.

When asked about the lack of confidence in his leadership, Merriman said every resident has the right to criticize him, but it needs to be constructive.

“I have to take the good with the bad,” he said. “If people are critical of my position, that’s fine. The only thing I would ask is that they offer some solutions that we can work with them on and work together on this.”

SUN survey results show 89.2 per cent of respondents reported a shortage of registered nurses available to cover absences or meet higher service demands. Roughly 82.8 per cent reported permanent or temporary vacancies for registered nurses in their workplace. That’s more than double the 39.7 per cent reported in 2021.

“While the provincial budget begins to tackle future staffing needs in Saskatchewan healthcare, it does very little to address the crisis we’re in right now,” Zambory said.

NDP health critic Vicki Mowat said the survey results show the provincial government has failed to address the chronic staffing crisis affecting the province. Both Mowat and NDP leader Ryan Meili called on the province to amend its budget to address the concerns rasied in the SUN survey.

“We’ve seen report after report, testimony after testimony, and, with each revelation, a provincial government determined to pretend all is normal,” Mowat said. “Now is the time for the Sask. Party to finally step up and fix our crumbling health system. That starts with supporting nurses.”

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