Veteran nurse explains why some quit patient care


Behind the story of emergency room closures across the country are the workers affected, like “Sue,” a 25-year-old veteran nurse in Ontario who openly mourns her decision to leave frontline medical care.

The 52-year-old, who has been independently verified as a nurse by but asked to protect her identity, said she enjoys her job of caring for patients, having worked as a operating room nurse, in surgical care services, and in rehabilitation and palliative care.

But since February, she has been on stress leave and seeing a psychologist after suffering from burnout.

After two intense years of work at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sue said she and her colleagues had been subjected to “bullying” by administrators, who she said were forcing them to take charge. too many patients than would be considered safe. Others, she says, are ordered to work compulsory overtime to make up for staff shortages, due to illness, exhaustion or because colleagues have quit.

“When I think about breastfeeding now…I get chills,” she said. “There was always a hint of ‘don’t you dare call in sick’, ‘don’t you dare miss work’ or ‘we know you’re stressed but Ontario needs you’.”

Sue has decided to retire early and says she knows several other experienced nurses who have left to work in long-term care, public health nursing or with nursing agencies where they can choose their own hours of work. work and assignments, reducing their stress. Two other people planning their outing are waiting to notify officials, she added.

“Everyone I’ve spoken to is either gone, retired, or seeing a psychiatrist or a counselor and taking antidepressants… How sad is that?” she says.


This weekend, several hospitals across Canada – especially in rural communities – are announcing temporary closures of emergency units and other medical services due to shortages of nurses and doctors.

Glengarry Memorial Hospital, in Alexandria, Ontario. closes its emergency room overnight from Saturday to Sunday, while the Kamsack hospital in Kamsack, Sask. closes hospital beds and the reduction of emergency hours because there are not enough nurses to staff them.

A hospital in Perth, Have. has seen its emergency room closed since July 2.

Deb Lefebvre, a registered nurse who lives in Kingston, Ont., but works outside the region in another community, described emergency care in Canada as “dangerous.”

“They are stretched and they themselves have become dangerous areas for patients,” she said. “We are leaving hospitals… feeling that patient care has been compromised.”

Another nurse, independently verified by, who asked not to be identified, added: “The staff-to-patient ratio is also not safe and many nurses now leave knowing that patients will not not receive safe care. Calls ring for hours, patients get dirty because there is no one to take them to the bathroom, patients die in waiting rooms. Hospitals in Canada are not safe.

Friday, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs is replaced its Minister of Health and CEO of Horizon Health Network after a patient died this week in an emergency department waiting room in Fredericton. A review process has begun in death.

The Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians also warned in a statement earlier this month that “it has never been more important to pay attention to the current state of emergency services,” adding that these facilities are “a window into the health of health care”.

Lefebvre said the difficult decision to shut down services is a huge red flag. There aren’t enough people to do the job safely, she says. His advice to Canadians going to the emergency room in the coming weeks is to bring a friend or relative with them to ensure they will be seen if their condition suddenly worsens.

In an email statement to on Friday, Paul-Émile Cloutier, president and CEO of HealthCareCAN admitted that the past two and a half years have laid bare the Canadian healthcare system.

“Throughout the pandemic, healthcare workers have worked – and continue to work – hard to provide the best possible care under extremely difficult circumstances, but what we are seeing now is healthcare workers who better able to cover the cracks in a system that was not designed to handle this constant and growing pressure,” he said. “Patient outcomes and healthcare staff shortages are not s “Will not improve if we just keep pumping more money into a failing system. It needs to be redesigned to respond effectively to the changing needs of an aging population and growing demand for health care services.”

They called on all levels of government to take immediate and concrete action to “strengthen the health care system of tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, Dr Michael Howlett, president of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, sympathized with emergency nurses, saying they carry a very heavy load.

“They become demoralized, exhausted and then leave the department to go work elsewhere. With fewer and fewer emergency nurses and doctors across the country, we are struggling to meet all care needs, and we are extremely concerned about potential delays in care,” he said. told in an emailed statement Friday.


A late 2021 survey by Statistics Canada found that one in four nurses planned to quit due to job stress or mental health concerns in the next three years.

With a summer surge of COVID-19 underway, departures from the front line could intensify, according to Linda Silas, head of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions.

“What we hear from our provincial nursing unions is that every day they get a call from nurses who want to either change their status, from full-time to part-time, or from part-time to casual, reducing considerably their hours or leave completely by taking early retirement,” Silas said.

Bonuses offered by some provinces like Ontario and Quebec have failed to stem the tide, she says. “They all fall flat on their stomachs because they’re a flash in the pan,” she said.

Underlying issues, Silas says, are quality of life and how nurses say they are treated, as many are forced to work overtime or denied vacation. Retaining these senior and experienced nurses is the first step to “stopping the bleeding” and ensuring safe frontline health care, they added.

“Employers need to work with nurses to see what they need to stay?” she says. “For some it’s as simple as ‘I can’t be asked to work overtime.’ ‘I have a family.’ “So you guarantee me that then I will stay,” added Silas.


The premiers who met in Victoria earlier this week asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to convene a first ministers meeting to hammer out a health care funding deal.

Nursing groups are also calling on the federal government to develop a national plan to address the nursing shortage, including a plan for how many nurses will be needed over the next few decades.


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