Staffing shortages and violence in hospitals are just two topics on the agenda as 900 nurses from across Canada meet in Fredericton this week.

These subjects are important for the nursing profession – but also hit pretty close to home for Maritimers.

On Monday afternoon, hundreds of nurses took a walk through downtown Fredericton. For many of them, it was a welcome break from their day jobs.

“Last week, I was visiting a unit, a nursing unit and the nurse manager tells me: ‘Linda, we're short three nurses, three nurses had to call in sick this morning, and I couldn’t replace them and we have three extra patients in the hallways,’” said Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions.

Silas says that's the reality in many provinces – including New Brunswick and Nova Scotia -- there are not enough nurses.

“We have upwards of 400 vacancies right now,” said Paula Doucet, the president of the New Brunswick Nurses Union.

Janet Hazelton, the president of the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, says the Nova Scotia has about “300 or so” vacancies.

Those vacancies having an effect on communities, she said.

“Most recently, the Eastern Memorial Hospital in Canso closed its doors at nighttime for the first time in 60-some years,” Hazelton said. “So that was very sad for the community, they were very disappointed and it was because of a nursing shortage.”

Staffing shortages is one of the major topics at the week’s convention in Fredericton and it’s an issue that can be connected to another.

“The violence is escalating and why it's escalating, it's the overcrowding, it's the lack of staffing, it's the lack of training,” Silas said. “We have to bring our health care facilities on a safety perspective.”

In New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, the healthcare sector garners the most workplace injury claims. There were more than 2,100 in New Brunswick last year alone.

“People need to know that it is happening, because we need to stop it,” Doucet said. “Violence is not part of anybody's job, especially a nurse’s job.”

These are tough topics for these nurses to cover as they step away from their day jobs this week and try to make them safer

Tuesday, some of the members of the New Brunswick Nurses Union will step away from the conference and head to Moncton  for the court appearance of a man charged with assaulting a nurse in March at The Moncton Hospital.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown.