With N.L. health-care in crisis, some MUN nursing students worry about what they're getting into
At the edges of Newfoundland and Labrador's health-care crisis, some nursing students at Memorial University are wondering what they're about to get into — and whether they want to at all.
Brooke Simms, the nursing representative on MUN's students' union, says she's heard from nursing students who look at the state of the province's health-care system and wonder whether they want to work in an environment that's driving other nurses away.
"When we go onto a floor and see that they're operating with half their staff and everyone is stressed, and we hear about people leaving left and right, it's scary," said Simms.
"Why would I stay here instead of moving somewhere with more reasonable working conditions?"
Nurses in the province are struggling with burnout, and emergency rooms are facing staff shortages and closures. To meet staffing requirements, health authorities have brought in mandatory overtime in hospitals and care centres.
The provincial government has stepped up efforts to recruit nationally and internationally — most recently in India and Ireland.
Health Minister Tom Osborne has directed the province's regional health authorities to recruit more nurse practitioners for primary health care, especially in rural areas, but can't say exactly how many the province needs — or, given the Canada-wide shortage of nurses, where they'll come from.
But in the meantime, the province's nurses' union says 40 per cent of its members — some of whom are dealing with 24-hour shifts — say they'll leave the profession if conditions don't improve.
"Right now it's being held together by bandages, but eventually it needs serious attention or it could lead to a very unfortunate outcome," said Jamie Murphy, a second-year nursing student.
He said he looks at what patients have experienced, and worries.
"From being in the emergency room for 24-plus hours, to waiting months for a diagnostic test because they don't have a family doctor to write them a referral — it all adds up, and I think it's making us all lose faith in the credibility of the system," he said.
Both Premier Andrew Furey and Osborne visited Memorial University twice during the 2022 fall semester to talk with students about their plans to improve the health-care system.
"There was some good feedback about what their needs were coming out of nursing school, what their desires were, and I think we took that back as feedback and we'll act on it," said Furey.
"Most encouraging for me was within the classes there was a real spirit and desire of wanting to stay in Newfoundland and Labrador," he said, "which tells me we just have to unlock the bureaucracy to enable them to reach their personal and professional goals."