How Ontario’s nurses are undervalued and under-utilized

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A nurse is a nurse is a nurse. Ontario’s nurses deserve better.

Ontario’s hospital employees are amongst the most skilled and experienced in the world. Hospitals are held in the highest regard by employers and government alike, and they are amongst the few public institutions that excel at quality medical care.

It is largely because of the professionalism and dedication of Ontario’s nurses that these outstanding results can be achieved.

According to data released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Ontario is one of the least expensive places to provide acute care.

This is more reason why Ontario’s hospitals should be able to pay better wages to their nurses.

Just consider that the Hospital Employees’ Union recently released a survey of approximately 2500 Ontario health care professionals which shows that only a third of registered nurses are satisfied with their compensation. This is unacceptable.

Why is this? Why are so many Ontario nurses feeling underpaid and unappreciated?

Simply put, nurses are undervalued and underutilized in Ontario.

In the case of lower skilled jobs, the employer is simply paying less than necessary and with such low wages, this may have a significant impact on the income of the average nurse.

Underutilization is a very real problem, particularly in Ontario’s hospitals, where over 200,000 nurses – or 31.8% of the total workforce – work more than 40 hours a week.

According to surveys from the Canadian Nurses Association, there are varying reasons for underutilization. These include:

– Providing patients with additional care

– Well-being and depression

– Work-related pressures

– An under-resourced nurse-care team

But the key reason to underutilize nurses is that the post-secondary training for nurses is largely inadequate. In many areas, nurse residents are well under the pay grade for the job, which could be a contributing factor to their underutilization.

If Ontario hospitals wished to retain excellent nurse talent, they need to provide significantly more training in order to attract them to Ontario.

This could be accomplished by:

– Increasing funding for Ontario’s university nursing programs

– Improving the number of federally funded nurse educator bursaries

– Creating more transitional programs for experienced nurses who want to start their own practice but don’t have the training to do so

That is not to say these strategies alone will be sufficient to retain the many hard-working nurses in Ontario’s hospitals. However, these are viable options.

Governments and employers need to support these measures if Ontario is to continue to have a highly qualified, highly productive and highly valued nursing workforce.

Ontario nurses deserve better. Let’s make that happen.

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