“Retaining our senior nurses is central to the success of younger nursing generations, and it’s actually essential in making sure that our offshore recruitment is successful.”
I recently made this statement to Regina’s Leader-Post because one of the keys to the very survival of Saskatchewan’s health system depends on retaining the indispensable knowledge and expertise of our senior registered nurses, and nothing is being done to convince them to stay in their positions.
It can feel daunting at the best of times to enter a busy healthcare workplace as a new graduate or even as a new Canadian. It’s hard for me to imagine what it’s like today, where facilities are constantly running short-staffed and always overloaded with patients.
We need our mid-career and senior registered nurses for their experience. We need them for their compassion. We need them for their patience and their confidence.
Trying to recruit nurses into a broken system is difficult. Even more so when there are fewer and fewer experienced nurses to help novices and newcomers find their feet.
Senior nurses orientate, mentor, support, and ensure the future generation of nurses will confidently and competently remain and thrive in their workplaces.
Right now, this age-old “rite of passage” acclimatizing new nurses into the system isn’t working. Many mid-career and senior nurses are choosing other options to balance their personal health and well-being with the mounting pressures they face. Early retirements, leaving full-time positions to go casual, switching to agency work, or even leaving the profession altogether are growing trends across all areas of the system.
This outward stream risks becoming a torrent if we don’t act now. The problem is that it doesn’t matter how many new registered nurses you train or recruit. If they are being forced to swim upstream without a lifejacket, they too will leave. In some tertiary ERs up to half of the new grads are leaving within six months, while it is becoming harder to recruit to rural locations where junior nurses feel overwhelmed without support.
We just aren’t doing enough to prevent this from happening. Senior nurses have been left out of all strategies to address the nursing crisis and this will be a fatal error. There is nothing to incentivize them to stay. Nothing is being done in the short term to provide support and improve workplaces. These senior nurses care about their work, their profession, and their patients. More needs to be done to keep registered nurses of all levels of experience healthy, supported, and working in the public system.
The solutions aren’t simple because the problem is complex and varies widely across facilities and the province. But the answers are out there if we engage registered nurses in finding them. It starts with one inclusive step that I refuse to stop advocating for: we urgently need a nursing taskforce.
I refuse to believe that there isn’t space at the table for registered nurses to join decision-makers to shape the future of healthcare in this province. Because who knows better what it will take to stem this tide? We are direct care providers who every day face the consequences of a healthcare system dictated without our involvement. We bring the expertise and experience needed to create healthcare solutions that will benefit nurses today, tomorrow, and well into the future.
Saskatchewan needs to retain our mid-career and senior registered nurses. They are valued mentors and integral healthcare providers. But it’s bigger than what they give to the next generation. These nurses have weathered so many storms for all of us. We owe them our gratitude.
Tracy Zambory, RN