Corner Brook nurses protest mandated overtime in struggling health-care system

Registered nurse Maria Young says mandated overtime forced her to leave acute care for her mental health. (Troy Turner/CBC - image credit)
Registered nurse Maria Young says mandated overtime forced her to leave acute care for her mental health. (Troy Turner/CBC - image credit)
Troy Turner/CBC
Troy Turner/CBC

A registered nurse working in Stephenville says the two hours of commuting a day is more than worth it to avoid mandatory overtime and working in what she calls a broken system.

Maria Young was one of dozens of nurses at a rally in Corner Brook on Tuesday demanding the provincial government eliminate mandated overtime and support nurses working in the provincial health-care system as emergency rooms across Newfoundland and Labrador face extraordinary pressure.

Young says she was working in acute care in her hometown of Corner Brook but left the city to work in Community Services in Stephenville — where there isn't 24-hour service — because of the impact on her mental health.

"Working in a system that is so broken really did a number on me. And now I do a two-hour commute every day in total to work somewhere where I can't be mandated," Young said Tuesday.

Young said the commute isn't ideal, because it keeps her away from her two-year-old son for long chunks of the day, but says it's a much better situation than the 16-to-24-hour shifts she was facing in acute care.

"Workloads are heavy, morale is very low," she said. "It's causing a lot of issues on the floors."

Troy Turner/CBC
Troy Turner/CBC

Yvette Coffey, president of the Registered Nurses' Union Newfoundland and Labrador, said mandated overtime has impacts on nurses' work-life balance and quality of care. Most nurses are now coming to their scheduled shifts with multiple meals and a change of clothes in case they are mandated to work overtime, she said.

Both Young and Coffey say as the provincial government works to recruit nurses to the province, it also needs to do more to retain and support nurses and health-care professionals already in the system.

Troy Turner/CBC
Troy Turner/CBC

"People are leaving. Nurses and nurse practitioners, the vacancies are there. People are leaving the profession at an astounding rate. It's scary," Young said.

"There's solutions that would help, but they're going to be difficult to implement considering the severe crisis we're in right now."

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