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Violence and job vacancies concern Nova Scotia nurses


As Nova Scotia and Canada struggle with a nursing shortage, Nova Scotia’s premier and health minister joined nurses at their union’s annual general meeting.

Far from their patients or an emergency room, nurses highlighted what’s in need of urgent care.

“Respect for nurses,” said registered nurse Susan Dobbin. “Nurses often aren’t respected in the workplace.”

During her presentation, Pauline Worsfold with the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions cited Statistics Canada data showing Nova Scotia has about 1,100 vacant nursing positions. For many of the 200 nurses in the room, the shortage translates into excess overtime.

On top of facing burnout, the president of Nova Scotia's Nurses' Union Janet Hazelton says some nurses are being hit by either patients or families.

“Two-thirds of our nurses said they experienced violence in the last year,” said Hazelton.

A month ago, the Houston government promised big bonuses to thank nurses for their work and keep them in the public system. The government previously vowed to give any student a job and Nova Scotia College of Nursing is streamlining licenses for nurses from seven other countries.

At the Nurses' Union AGM, Premier Tim Houston pledged to have nurses’ backs.

“I hope you feel that things will get better. I hope you feel that the needle is moving ever so slightly,” Houston said.

The union and government are in the middle of negotiations for the nurses’ latest contract.

Nurses at the AGM told CTV News they feel they’re being listened to but others also told Houston bonuses have created animosity among staff.

“There are a lot of casual nurses who currently work full-time hours or close to full-time hours but they don’t qualify for the bonus,” said Dobbin, who is concerned some nurses now feel slighted.

During a question-and-answer period, Health Minister Michelle Thompson was asked if the government will commit to a mandatory ratio of licensed staff at long-term care facilities, consult with the VON to decide the best way to deliver care after hours, and whether the government would fund a security model that includes protection service officers.

Minister Thompson said the government has committed to 4.1 hours of care and agreed to consult with the VON.

On the question of violence, she believes security is an important part of a violence strategy but it’s also necessary to look at violence prevention and to understand what's driving it.

“It’s a very complex issue,” Thompson told reporters. “We see not only violence and incivility from families but we see violence from patients and there’s a lot of reasons why that can happen.”

Thompson said it’s important to look at issues around security but also around skills and abilities of the nurses to manage violence and how to support them if they are involved in a violent incident. Top Stories

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