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Earlier this month, the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) issued an employee work-life survey, only to pull it offline shortly after it was sent to employees. In response to this, and as a result of the troubling reports we have been hearing from our frontline nursing members, the NSGEU launched its own member survey.

The survey was sent to all signed NSGEU nurses (3,147 members), and we received 1,009 responses in return (32% response rate). Members were given more than 10 days to complete the survey. The results were extremely alarming:

PATIENT SAFETY:

  • 93% of nurses surveyed say they believe patients are being put at risk due to working short;
  • And in the past six months, 69% of respondents say they have witnessed or been involved in a “near miss” or adverse event at work.

WORKLOAD:

  • 92% say in the past five years, their workload has increased;
  • And 80% say their employer’s decision to change the way they interpret overtime language in their collective agreement has actually increased their workload further;
  • 85% of respondents say their unit works short at least once per week;
  • And 77% say their employer’s decision to change the way they interpret overtime language in their collective agreement has actually increased the amount of time their unit has worked short.

NURSES’ SAFETY:

  • Only 12% of respondents say they feel safe at work;
  • 84% of respondents say they have experienced physical or verbal threats or acts of abuse/violence by patients/residents/family members while at work over the past five years;
  • And 35% have sustained injuries at work over that same period of time.

The survey comments outlined a number of very disturbing reports, including, but not limited to:

  • Nurses being bitten, kicked and hit by patients and patients’ family members;
  • An increased number of patient falls, due to nursing staff being unavailable to provide one-on-one care and management’s refusal to call in patient attendants;
  • Increased number of bedsores, as nurses do not have time to provide full personal care or post-operative baths, or to turn patients as frequently as they should;
  • Missed or late medications and medication errors, as well as missed orders and bloodwork;
  • Inability to properly manage patients’ pain and nausea due to time constraints;
  • And patients being placed in TV rooms and communal family waiting areas.

“The results of this survey clearly show that nurses are struggling to provide safe patient care, given the consistent staffing shortages they are facing on the front lines,” said NSGEU President Jason MacLean.

“Something must be done, now, to address the very serious concerns our members are bringing forward.”

The NSGEU is calling on the Minister of Health and Wellness, Randy Delorey, to immediately establish a working group that includes all union stakeholders, government officials and NSHA management so we can identify immediate solutions to improve safety at our hospitals for staff and patients. We also are once again extending an invitation to our Minister of Health and Wellness, Randy Delorey, and Premier Stephen McNeil, to shadow one of our nurses to see what it is really like working on the front lines of the health care system today.

The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union represents over 31,000 women and men who provide quality public services Nova Scotians count on every day.