RNAO involved in three surveys on the impact of COVID-19 on Canadian nurses

Many thanks to Senior Economist Kim Jarvi for leading RNAO's work on the surveys. If you have questions or are interested in using the surveys in other professions or jurisdictions, please contact kjarvi@rnao.org.

Canada and the rest of the world are well into the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Canadian nurses and other health professionals are under dangerous levels of stress, and their wellbeing is at risk. Elements of the health system, such as hospital intensive care units (ICU), have been overwhelmed. RNAO is involved in three major surveys that will help us develop new programs to respond to nurses’ needs, and capture the impacts on nurses’ wellbeing to share with employers, government and other policymakers:

  • RNAO’s survey of Ontario nurses
  • The University of Ottawa comparative survey of nurses and other health professions across Canada, with RNAO participation
  • A partnership between University of South Australia and RNAO comparing impacts on Canadian nurses with nurses and midwives in over 100 other countries.
  1. RNAO Work and Wellbeing Survey Results

Widespread impact of pandemic on Ontario RNs. On March 31, RNAO released the results of a survey it did of Ontario RNs, NPs and nursing students from January 29 to February 22, 2021. With well over 2,000 participants, this survey revealed that nurses were profoundly -- though differentially -- impacted with high levels of concern about health risks, high levels of stress, and significant impacts on work/life balance. The majority were able to cope and adapt, but a significant minority were struggling. Nurses relied most heavily on family and friends for support. They rated support from the government to be inadequate, while support from employers was rated in the adequate range. RNAO’s support amongst members and non-members was rated high (interestingly, RNAO members also expressed higher levels of “happiness”).

Looming losses of RNs. A striking finding of the survey was that elevated numbers of RNs were contemplating retirement or leaving the profession – so much so that in the first year alone, potential losses would amount to 15.6%, which is over three times the normal loss rate of 4.8% for RNs. The survey landed with a splash, being cited in the Toronto Star, Hospital News, Kitchener Today (also Sudbury.com), CMAJ, as well as several television and radio outlets. The findings are ringing alarm bells, and decision-makers cannot ignore the results, particularly given the strong attention they have attracted. A May 14 government announcement to increase the seats in BScN programs starting this Fall is a direct result from the survey

  1. Nursing Case Study of the Healthy Professional Worker Partnership: University of Ottawa

Comparing impact of pandemic on RNs with that on other health professions. RNAO is a partner in the nursing portion of the Healthy Professional Worker Partnership examining mental health at work. The partnership is based at the University of Ottawa and led by Dr. Ivy Bourgeault. It is conducting seven case studies of professions, including nursing, midwifery, medicine, dentistry, teaching, academia and accounting. The work entails document analysis, intervention case studies, stakeholder interviews, worker interviews and worker surveys. RNAO strongly encouraged nurses to participate in the study through direct email, in RNAO’s In-The-Loop, through this blog, and social media. The survey portion is now closed and we eagerly await the report which will compare the results among the different professions.

  1. COVID-19 and your workplace and wellbeing: A joint RNAO/UniSA survey of Canadian nurses.

Comparing impact of pandemic on nurses by jurisdiction. Have your say! RNAO is working in partnership with researchers from the Rosemary Bryant AO Research Centre (RBRC) at the University of South Australia (UniSA) to deliver a Canada-wide survey of nurses on COVID-19 and wellbeing. We have jointly adapted to Canada the survey that UniSA is using for nurses in 117 countries across the globe. That survey was widely distributed by Nursing Now, and a report is expected by the end of May.

Scope of the new survey. The Canadian survey is very extensive and will allow a detailed picture of

  • how prepared workplaces were for the pandemic,
  • how well they responded and protected staff and patients from the virus,
  • how respondents were affected by the pandemic in terms of health, workload, work demands and employment,
  • how well respondents were supported, and
  • how well respondents are responding to the current challenges in the workplace.

How many nurses will we lose? The survey also inquires whether respondents are likely to retire or leave the profession. The survey will allow us to compare results by age, years of nursing, gender, location, ethnicity, country of origin, union representation, job classification, nurse classification, role, work status, sector, and setting. UniSA will compare for us the Canadian results with those in other countries.

The importance of participating. This is an excellent opportunity for nurses to tell the story of their pandemic experience in great detail. The survey is constructed in a way that we can identify the greatest challenges, who faces them, and what can help. It will take you about 20 minutes to respond, and this is time well spent! The survey results are very important. They will help participating jurisdictions in Canada and elsewhere to advance your needs, make sure nurses remain valued and fulfilled members of our profession, and that Canadians have the nursing human resources they require. The survey will strengthen the ability of RNAO and others to advocate for healthier nursing and pandemic policies. We expect strong public and media interest in the survey results, like with our earlier survey. We urge all Canadian nurses to respond, including those who kindly participated in the January/February RNAO survey.

If you are a Canadian nurse, we highly encourage you to respond to the survey. To start this survey, go to https://research.unisa.edu.au/redcap/surveys/?s=XX4WRC33TR