Nurses are the backbone of any heath-care environment, and are expected to be at the front lines of patient care. So it’s sometimes forgotten that they might be in need of help as well.
Last December, Statistics Canada released the results of a national survey on the work and health of nurses across Canada, which provided some startling information on the health of the profession itself.
In Ontario, more than 68 per cent of nurses reported there was often too much work for one person, while 33 per cent said they experienced high job strain.
Also, three in 10 nurses across Canada said a patient physically attacked them, while four in 10 said they encountered emotional abuse by a patient.
The stress of these work-related experiences has placed a toll on the health of nurses and the profession itself. In Ontario, 63 per cent of nurses said they took time off for a health-related reason, with 26 per cent reporting that the quality of health care has deteriorated.
"It all alarmed me," said registered nurse Irmajean Banjok of the statistics. She is the director of the Centre for Nursing Excellence at the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO).
"Nurses have been working in troubled work environments and that has affected both their mental and physical health."
She knew that creating a positive work environment for nurses had to be a priority, which is why the RNAO embarked on developing a series of tools — Healthy Work Environments Best Practice
Guidelines — that would address issues pertaining to health, safety, staffing and workload. The RNAO hopes these guidelines will propel a change within the system.
Banjok said nurses are often busy with non-nursing jobs. "If we want the most qualified person to be (with patients), we have to make sure that nurses are there and not mopping the floors."
Patricia D'Cunha/Metro Toronto