Calling the Next Generation of Health Care Workers!
It’s been news since 2020: Nursing staff around the world are struggling to stay afloat amid poor working conditions. Yet, it feels as though their struggles have not been justly highlighted in the media. The World Health Organization estimated in 2020 that to reach Sustainable Development Goal 3 on health and well-being, “the world will need an additional 9 million nurses and midwives by the year 2030”. Right now, in Montreal, Dawson College is preparing dedicated and passionate nursing students to enter this challenging workforce while current nurses are shedding light on the reality, good and bad, of their profession.
COVID-19’s influence on healthcare has increased the roles of nurses significantly. Raed, a registered nurse at the MUHC, highlighted the importance of consistent and abundant staff by stating that their workload is “intense enough, but teamwork is helping a lot”. Teamwork extends beyond registered nurses, as sometimes it can “feel as though nurses rely more on students to help out as they are so understaffed,” commented student nurse Hailey Wildenmann at the Douglas Hospital.
Emily, a student nurse at Royal Victoria Hospital, expressed the extremities of her workload, in addition to having a paid job and academic responsibilities, as being “quite unmotivating at times”. As a student nurse, Emily often arrives early and leaves later than her assigned shift and is responsible for the work of a nurse and a p.a.b “on top of being expected to prepare the night before with a complete report on [her] patients diagnoses, current condition, and expected plan of care”. Having such a hectic job, she scarcely takes breaks and is “often very hungry, dehydrated and lightheaded at the end of [most] days”.
Despite the discouraging conditions of being a nurse, those in the field of study remain as determined as ever to make a difference. “I entered the nursing career to help and comfort people in their time of need” stated William Auclair-Heroux, a Dawson nursing student. Those who wish to become nurses, like nursing student Eden Zrihan, believe that “nursing is more than a career choice, it is a calling”.
“Nursing is what drives me to succeed and what I hope to become” she said, and when asked about how she feels about the current working conditions, Eden replied with an emphasis on the importance of personal protective equipment: “PPE has become scarce in many places, putting healthcare workers at risk […] Priority should be given to proper PPE. I believe that the lives of healthcare workers are not sufficiently prioritized, resulting in increased infection and, as a result, a staffing shortage”.
Megan Dija, a Dawson nursing student, criticized the government for their seeming lack of awareness when it comes to what the staff needs by saying: “All the government is doing is augmenting their salary, which is a good thing but not the priority right now… They’re wondering why no one wants to be a nurse but look at the working conditions!”.
The government’s role in healthcare has been heavily scrutinized on account of their lack of improving working conditions. However, according to the Quebec government, they’ve implemented financial incentives for nurses to return to the workforce, and have added measures to improve daily routines such as “less mandatory overtime, more stable schedules, additional staff, and the recruitment of nurses with international credentials”.
So, how is Dawson preparing its students for the upcoming challenges, while keeping them motivated?
According to Gioia, “teachers have been very transparent with us. Nursing is not easy and although they remind us of this frequently, they don’t fail to mention that it is also one of the most fulfilling professions out there”. It is, however, impossible to say with complete confidence how effective their program is until they can experience nursing first-hand and, as nursing student Alexander Trujillo commented, “I don’t believe being 100% ready is possible but I’m sure at the end of the program I’ll be as ready as I can be”.
An interesting aspect of the program, Eden mentioned, is that “some [students] may even provide direct care to COVID-positive patients, according to an email sent recently […] Knowing that we could potentially infect loved ones at home adds to the stress”.
Nurses and student nurses also wish to encourage those studying the profession to stay inspired and focus on the importance of what it is to be a nurse. When asked if they could say one thing to future nurses and people in healthcare, Emily said “You are worthy of every little thing you do, sometimes it feels as though all your hard work has gone unnoticed, but your patients see you bigger than you can ever imagine”. Jeanette Agcaoili, an RN at MNH in the ICU, empathized to “always think about the patient’s safety and [that] everything we do is for the patient”.