LETTERS: Healthcare workers burning out

For the past 21 years, I have had the honor of working as an RN, with 19 of those years in the ER. I have always had a passion for emergency medicine, and from the time I was very little, felt a calling to the Nursing profession. Never could I have imagined, that our health care system would become such a mess, that it would leave me wondering, “Can I actually do this for another 20 years?”

I have been very blessed to work at Lennox and Addington County General Hospital for the past 18 years, and believe that we have the greatest team of doctors and nurses. Having said all of this, our system is not sustainable, if very big changes are not made soon. This is not only for LACGH, but our entire province. Ontario currently has the lowest ratio of RN’s per capita in the country, with just 690 per 100,00 people. Canada’s average is 831. Prior to Covid, Ontario was in need of 20,000 RN’s, just to catch up.

The statistics are much worse than this now, as many nurses are leaving the profession due to the incredible stress from the pandemic, increasing violence, and extreme staffing shortages. There is rarely a shift now that does not involve at least verbal abuse, as our wait times increase, due to high volume and staff shortages.

This brings me to the point that concerns me the most, and that is the declining mental health in nurses. I have been dealing with a diagnosis of depression and anxiety for many years, and it has certainly been very difficult to manage this over the past couple of years. I have listened to many of my co workers, who did not previously have mental health issues, talk about extreme anxiety, low mood, and difficulty sleeping.

The ONA (Ontario Nurse’s Association) recently released some very disturbing numbers that were recorded prior to Covid, meaning these numbers are much higher now. One in three nurses (36.4 per cent) screened positive for Major Depressive Disorder, and more than one in four screened positive for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (26.1 per cent) Clinical burnout was reported at 29.3 per cent. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that we cannot keep going the way we are.

I would also like to make note that these stats are affecting all professions in the hospital, including, but not limited to, RN’s, RPN’s, PSW’s, lab techs, radiology, and environmental service workers, who have worked tirelessly through this pandemic to keep our Covid numbers low. Shout out to my amazing co-workers at LACGH. It’s time for our provincial government to stand up and take note…before it’s too late.

Erika Turnbull RN