Alberta's nursing shortage will only get worse as young nursing graduates leave their professions for less demanding work in or outside their fields, said the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta.
In 2004, 33 per cent of nurses under the age of 30 planned to leave their jobs, claimed CARNA communications director Margaret Ward-Jack. She added the Alberta government predicts that by the year 2016, medical facilities will lose 6,000 registered nurses. As many nurses retire, nursing graduates will lack the proper training from registered health care professionals.
"Although there have been significant increases in the numbers of nurses being educated in the province and coming to Alberta from other provinces and countries, we don't think that we're going to meet the [calculated] objective," said Ward-Jack. "That's because at this point in time, 18 per cent of the nursing workforce [in Canada] is aged 56 or older. Because the economy is booming and the population is growing, there are going to be even more demands on the health care system."
CARNA president Margaret Hadley thinks that more international recruitment, increasing seats through government funding and retention strategies are needed to eliminate the crisis in Alberta's health care system.
As Alberta's RN graduates enter the workforce, many are required to abandon their theoretical training for more practical work skills. This has been a major concern among many nursing educators and students who wonder if the transition is too overwhelming for nursing graduates who are quitting shortly after employment.
University of Calgary third-year nursing student Kristin Catena said the gap between theory and practice can be terrifying for any recent nursing graduate who is inexperienced in the work field.
"Clinical [practice] can be very stressful at times," said Catena. "It can be frightening because, although you are overseen by an instructor in RN, we're responsible for most of the hands-on care to whatever patients we are assigned to."
U of C nursing faculty associate dean Lorraine Watson attended the U of C's fourth annual education conference at the Red and White Club last week. Nursing students, nurses and educators addressed complex issues such as education, nursing and mentorship roles, faculty implications, patient care and the social organization of evaluating student nurses.
While teaching and hearing the opinions of other professionals at the education conference, Watson found there needed to be more understanding and appreciation for what nurses do.
'"There's this complexity of knowing what you need to do and trying to get it done and not always having the support and resources to do it," said Watson. "Patients are really, really sick and complex so that adds to that dilemma. In a sense, it's even more and more important that we, as nurses, know more and more and can express that and use that knowledge."