January 28, 2021

Registered Nurses’ Union Calls on Parties to Address Growing Shortage of Registered Nurses

St. John’s – The Registered Nurses’ Union Newfoundland & Labrador (RNU) is requesting political parties discuss what steps they will take to recruit and retain registered nurses (RNs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) and address inadequate staffing practices.

“It’s encouraging to see election announcements around expansion of programs and investment in technology to improve access to health care services,” said Yvette Coffey, RNU President. “However, we also need to focus on getting the basics right such as properly staffing our facilities.  We are facing a growing shortage of registered nurses and it’s impacting the delivery of care in communities across Newfoundland and Labrador. Our members and the people of this province deserve better.”

RNs are the largest group of health care providers and work in all aspects of health care. RNs have in-depth knowledge, skills and judgment that make them a vital profession in the health care system. There is a direct correlation between adequate RN staffing and safe patient care.

“The connection between RN staffing and patient care cannot be ignored. You can’t improve health outcomes for patients or reduce costs to deliver services with a system that relies on overtime and understaffing of RNs,” said Coffey. “Increased workload, working short-staffed and excessive overtime is leaving RNs concerned for their patients and having a major impact on our members. Their mental health is being impacted, they are suffering from burnout and exhaustion. These RNs are people with families who sacrifice work-life balance to ensure safe patient care.”

RNs are committed to protecting and advocating for their patients, however, they face a system where the complexity of care is increasing and occurrences of workplace violence and other occupational hurdles challenge their ability to provide optimal care.

“If you speak to an RN today they will tell you they cannot keep up. They will tell you hospitals operate at over-capacity on a regular basis, patients wait on stretchers in emergency rooms or hallways because there is no bed for them, and residents in the community and long-term care wait too long for essential care,” Coffey says. “However, our members continue to show up and provide quality care, but at what cost?”

Vacancies in RN positions have been rising since 2015.  In a survey conducted last fall, more than half of RNU members say their workplace does not have sufficient nursing staff. RNs worked over 275,000 hours of overtime in 2018-19.

RNU wrote party leaders last week to ask for their commitment to address staffing and workload, as well as other measures to improve health care.  Responses from each party will be shared with the union’s members.

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Media Contact:

Karyn Whelan


Registered Nurses’ Union
Phone: 753.9961, 691-0889