Almost half of N.B. nurses near retirement: Union SARAH SEELEY TIMES & TRANSCRIPT March 1,2018

With almost half of New Brunswick’s registered nurses nearing retirement age, staffing shortages like the one that closed part of The Moncton Hospital’s Emergency Room on Saturday are going to become more common, says the president of the nurses’ union.
After 22 years as a registered nurse, Paula Doucet said she has seen the nursing shortage in this province get considerably worse.
While the problem isn’t unique to this province, she said, New Brunswick’s aging workforce is expediting the situation here.
“It’s the perfect storm unfortunately,”said Doucet.
On Saturday, a nursing shortage caused the closure of the non-acute area of The Moncton Hospital’s emergency department.
Nancy Parker, the hospital’s executive director, said patients were transferred to the acute portion for a period of eight hours. Ambulances were diverted to the Dr.-George-L.-Dumont University Hospital for two hours.
Parker said the closure was caused by“unexpected sick calls”and vacant positions in the hospital.She said staff were shuffled to the emergency department from other units.
“When situations like this happens, our ER staff and physicians look at the best possible options they have to provide the safest patient care possible,”she said.
Doucet said she was informed of the ER closure.
“It’s very unfortunate that there are so many vacancies there and there is no real backup plan as to how to deal with this shortage in the long-term,”she said.
Parker said Horizon Health Network has launched a national recruitment strategy to bring more nurses to New Brunswick hospitals, using job fairs, social media and partnerships with universities to connect with nurses looking for work.
According to 2016 statistics from the Nursing Association of New Brunswick, 43 per cent of the 8,137 registered New Brunswick nurses are over the age of 50, with 27 per cent being over the age of 55.
Laurie Janes, the nurses association executive director, said the average retirement age for nurses is 57. Over the next 10 years, that is expected to create between 300 and 400 empty positions as older nurses retire.
Janes said reports of workplace violence, long shifts and overtime hours to compensate for the shortage are deterrents to recruitment.
Doucet said working short-handed is “taking its toll”on the nurses.
“Nurses are being asked to do more with less,”she said.“It’s coming out to be dangerous for outcomes for patients.”
The nurses union wants the province to devise a nursing strategy to deal with the shortage and recruiting and retaining employees, said Doucet.
“We need to be looking at not only short-term solutions, but very long-term solutions to address this issue,”she said.
Health Minister Benoit Bourque said he is aware of the nursing shortage and the large number of nurses nearing retirement age.
“We know that situation is coming,” he said. “We are working actively to find a solution to make sure we have enough nurses in the system.”
The health department is looking at methods of recruitment, scope of practice and better conditions for nurses, said Bourque.
Paul Bradley, health department spokesman, said in an email that the department established a Nursing Resource Strategy Steering Committee in December 2017. The committee consists of 17 members from government, regional health authorities, nursing and education.
Janes said the committee will have to evaluate the nursing care team and how care is delivered as well as bringing in nurses from outside the province.
“I think we’re going to have to see something very innovative and very different right from the ground up.”
– With files from Adam Bowie
The Bend 91.9