McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Crisis hitting the workforce of nurses in rural and small communities

Published: May 5, 2008

They’re called "jack-of-all trades" — nurses who work in rural and small community hospitals.

In one shift, they may care for a labouring mother, a teenager in the midst of a psychiatric crisis, a recovering surgical patient and car accident victim — moving from the emergency room and obstetrics to the medical-surgical and intensive care units.

Often, they look after patients on their own without help from nurses aides, porters, clerical workers, housekeeping staff and on nights and week-ends, even doctors.

But, their numbers are dwindling.

Just as Canada’s nursing workforce is aging, older nurses in small community hospitals are preparing to retire. Recruitment efforts are failing to attract enough younger nurses because they prefer to work in high-tech urban hospitals where they can hone their newly acquired skills.

The issue is a concern in rural parts of Southern Ontario; particularly the area designated LHIN 4 (Local Health Integration Network) whose population of 1.3 million people includes Simcoe, Hagersville, Dunnville, Grimsby, Niagara-on-the-lake, Fort Erie and Port Colborne.

Andrea Baumann, Co-Director, Nursing Health Services Research Unit at McMaster says, "The collection and analysis of baseline data on hospital’s nursing workforce is an essential component of planning for change in any urban, community or rural hospital".

Information and data collected about the nursing workforce in LHIN 4 will be explored by researchers in McMaster University’s Nursing Health Services Research Unit (NHSRU) during a one-day workshop on Tuesday, May 6 at Niagara-on-the-Lake. The workshop will take place from 8.30 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Pillar and Post Hotel.

More than 50 nursing and long-term care leaders working in facilities throughout LHIN 4 and other LHIN representatives are expected to attend.

Donna Rothwell, chief nursing and professional practice officer for the Niagara Health System, will open the workshop entitled Better Data, Better Decisions, Strengthening Your Organization. The keynote address will be given by Marion Emo, senior director of planning, integration and community engagement, LHIN 4.

Since 2006, the McMaster NHSRU has been conducting research on rural health care. In its most recent research, research fellow Amy Montour found during interviews with nursing executives, registered nurses and registered practical nurses working in six LHIN 4 hospitals:

    • The structure and capacity of the nursing workforce is going to change because the workforce itself is aging and younger nurses prefer to work in city hospitals
    • Re-organization of Ontario’s health care system into 14 LHINs has altered communication patterns, management roles and scheduling practices
    • The workload of rural and community nurses is increasing because of e-technology, infectious disease patterns and an aging patient population.
Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Level Double-A conformance, W3C WAI Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0