Auditor General Carol Bellringer has announced that Northern Health has not been able to meet the requirements of recruiting registered nurses. This shortage of trained nurses has led to diminished healthcare service at a primary level in Northern British Colombia.

Thousands of patients are going through safety risks because of lack of appropriate medical care. Bellringer’s office is in-charge of recruiting nurse practitioners and registered nurses in the remote areas of Northern Health Authority. Most of the Northern region except Prince George falls under the rural category.

There has been a 4% decrease in the number of positions which are considered difficult to fill. They are called so because they remain open for more than 90 days. However, the total number of postings for nursing jobs are still the same as last year.

At present there is a shortage of 121 registered nurses. This has led to an increase in patient wait times and lack of nurses in certain shifts. Nurse practitioners play a very important role in providing medical care in the remote communities of BC. They order tests and prescribe medication and essentially serve as main health authorities at the medical facilities.

The Vice-president of BC’s labor organization, Christine Sorenson states that

We have a difficulty with all of the rural and remote sites across British Columbia – not only retaining nurses in those communities but also recruiting nurses.” , “There’s a nursing shortage everywhere.”

Areas facing acute shortage

Some areas are more affected by this shortage than others. These include Smithers, Upper Skeena, Prince Rupert, Nechako, Peace River North, Fort Nelson and Terrace. The main reasons behind this shortage is that the region offers numerous challenges in the form of bad weather, absence of amenities and lack of housing facilities. Administrative hurdles in the form of poor management discourage nurses to take up jobs in British Columbia.

Consequences of the shortage

Due to the current shortage of nurses, the pressure has increased on the existing personnel. Bellringer has warned that such shortage could lead to a situation of burnout, increase the risk of mistakes and affect patient safety. Nurses doing over-time consistently do not have the time to check on patients. This is a major hindrance in the treatment process.

Solution to the problem

It has been reported that despite a shortage of nurses, there are no registered nurse programs in BC to offer training. There is a growing need for a nursing institute in this region. Northern Health needs to collaborate with the local government to come up with affordable housing facilities for nurses.

Immigration programs are a good way to bring in dedicated and skilled nurses to fill up the gaps. The provincial nominee program has been of immense help in recruiting registered nurses last year.

Northern Health plans to launch a social media campaign and go through the existing database to recruit a higher number of nursing personnel this year. Steps like staff recognition programs and employee referral programs are being taken to meet the demand for nursing practitioners.