Staffing shortages, patient safety key concerns among NSGEU nurses

For the 2013 Nursing Week the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU/NUPGE) has released a report on the working conditions and opinions of many of the provinces' nurses.

Halifax (07 May 2013) - The 2013 theme of Canada’s National Nursing Week (May 6-12) is “Nursing: A Leading Force for Change.” And it’s clear from the results of Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union's (NSGEU/NUPGE) recent research into issues of nursing job satisfaction, burnout and patient safety here in Nova Scotia, the provinces' nurses need that change now.

Understaffing serious concern for nurses

NSGEU/NUPGE's research, series of focus groups and an online survey, confirms that understaffing is a real issue for Nova Scotia's nurses. Around 58.5 per cent of nurses say the staffing level in their workplace is “unacceptable” and prevents them from doing their jobs effectively. In the past 12 months, just 5.5 per cent of nurses say they haven’t worked short-staffed.

“This report clearly shows us that our nurses are being stretched too thin, and that the problem is only getting worse,” said NSGEU President Joan Jessome.

Action needed as growing number of nurses eligible to retire

Jessome points out that “with almost 3,000 nurses eligible to retire in the next five years, we need to seriously address the issue of understaffing in our hospitals, before it is too late."

"While hiring staff may be costly, it certainly cannot cost more than overtime, stress and sick leave, and the countless readmissions that are a direct result of not having enough nurses to care for patients.”

Patient care adversely affected

Understaffing is having a direct impact on patient care, as well as the working lives of our nurses. An overwhelming majority of nurses surveyed (95.7 per cent) believe “working short” adversely affects patient safety. And many nurses who reported working short also report witnessing “near misses” or adverse patient events, including medication errors, as a result.


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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