With the pandemic curve flattening, VIANurse program will focus its effort on outbreaks


The pandemic caused a sudden spike in demand for nursing human resources across the healthcare system. RNAO planned and was ready for it. Indeed, we were the first out the door addressing growing shortages, as many RNs, NPs and PSWs were being quarantined and/or falling sick, and staffing needs escalated together with the acuity of many settings.

RNAO launched the COVID-19 VIANurse program on March 12, 2020. We enlisted nurses for telehealth services to reduce ER visits, and helped public health units with case / contact tracing. We supported health facilities including hospitals augment their nursing human resources during the month of March to better position themselves to tackle the pandemic. We sent, starting April, RNs, NPs and nursing students to health facilities with active outbreaks – especially nursing homes - to save lives.

VIANurse provided these services free of charge to the entire province during an unprecedented time of need. Kudos to RNAO staff led by Daniel Lau -- director of membership & services – and his team – for working literally around the clock, seven days a week, so that organizations with staffing needs will not wait.

During this period, VIANurse registered 7,414 RNs for virtual and clinical care, 1,028 critical care RNs (who have experience and continued competency in the provision of critical care), and 287 NPs. In addition, 389 colleagues responded to our call for work at nursing homes experiencing an outbreak: 285 RNs and 40 NPs and 53 nursing students – ready to go to nursing homes in an active outbreak - plus, 11 RNs who can do non-clinical work in outbreaks places.

VIANurse served the staffing needs of more than 313 organizations in different sectors, including 238 long-term care homes, 29 hospitals, 11 public health units, 7 indigenous health facilities, 3 hospices, 3 correctional centres and other sectors. And, many organizations have accessed VIANurse multiple times.

Now the efforts of Ontarians have helped stabilize the pandemic curve, at least for this first wave, and the government is implementing plans to ease restrictions. Most health organizations in need of staffing have been served, many more than once, and staffing needs have generally stabilized across the province.

As we contemplate a new normal – and we hope that continuing public discipline and wise public health guidance will help avoid a recurrence of a major second wave –, RNAO is also re-defining the COVID-19 VIANurse program with a narrower scope for this new stage. Please take note of the change:

As of Tuesday, May 19, 2020, RNAO’s VIANurse program will provide staffing assistance only to health facilities with active COVID-19 outbreaks. Health organizations – in all sectors – not facing a COVID-19 outbreak, but looking to fulfill their ongoing staffing needs in nursing and other health professions, are asked to advertise as always in RNAO’s job board, RNCareers.ca

Since 2006, RNCareers.ca has been the official career site of the RNAO, and the first online career board that was created exclusively to meet the needs of the Ontario nursing professional. RNCareers.ca specializes in all nursing roles including point of care nurses, advanced practice as well as executive, administrative, management and academic nursing positions. The site hosts nurse practitioner (NP), clinical nurse specialists (CNS), registered nurse (RN), registered practical nurse (RPN) and all other health professional positions in clinical and non-clinical roles across all health-care. It also serves nursing students who want to work as personal support workers. If you have any questions please contact Daniel Lau dlau@rnao.ca

Below we provide glimpses into letters we received thanking RNAO for the contribution at a time of urgent need:

Tracey Comeau, Villa Colombo, “Within hours of our call for assistance, we received an immediate response… the call [went] out to over 60 RNs waiting for their call to action; within 24 hours we received over 15 responses, and new hires arrived for orientation within days. The RNAO VIANurse has also been instrumental in assisting us to recruit Nursing students to fill some PSW staffing gaps.”

Lois Cormack, Sienna Senior Living, “Through the fantastic efforts of the team at RNAO, we have been able to hire 13 staff and already have 9 of those individuals deployed to COVID-19 positive residences within one week…

Lisa Levin, AdvantAge Ontario, “As you know, within just days of launching our partnership, thousands of students were connected with hundreds of homes bringing desperately needed support and relief. We received numerous emails of thanks from member homes and it is hard to imagine how many of them would have managed in those first few weeks without your foresight to mobilize this willing and dedicated team. You then followed shortly with a second wave of support through the placement of RNs and nurse practitioners and created COVID-19 teams for hardest hit homes. It is not an overstatement to say that these efforts saved lives.”

Esther Moghadam, Ottawa Public Health, “Through the partnership of the RNAO’s VIANurse program, OPH was able to quickly enhance its capacity for triaging test results, case management and contact tracing by an additional 100 nurses, so that service could be provided 7 days a week, without delay.”

RNAO’s response to these and other letters of thanks: We are honoured and proud to serve.