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Canadian health care job vacancies more than double as illness, stress take hold

Canadian healthcare job vacancies skyrocket amid worsening staff shortages and stress
Canadian health care workers continue to feel stressed with higher rates of illness and a lack of incoming workers to fill higher demand for their services; as a result they are working longer hours (overtime), according to Statistics Canada.

Job vacancies in health care occupations have more than doubled in three years, between the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and March 2023, according to a Statistics Canada nationwide survey.

Not only has the supply of health care workers not met the higher demand for jobs, the existing workers — such as nurses, hospital employees, doctors and long-term care providers — are reporting higher workloads and illness, and that's raising the likelihood some will leave their profession.

In 2020, health care workers missed 17.6 days of work due to illness, up from 14.2 days in 2019. Nurses missed the most days with 19.5 days of absence, compared to 14.6 days in 2019.

Illnesses subsided in 2021 only to re-surge in 2022, as the Omicron variant took hold and vaccines needed to be altered, according to the survey.

In 2022, B.C. health care workers showed a high degree of acceptance for the COVID-19 vaccine, with 98 per cent of physicians and 99 per cent of nurses reported to have been inoculated.

Still, on top of the increased absences, worker demand continued to surge, with new workers unable to keep pace. According to the survey, by 2022, 31.7 per cent of full-time nurses and 18.2 per cent of personal support workers and care aides put in additional hours over and above their scheduled paid hours, including unpaid time.

“The changes in employment quality among health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic coincided with increased levels of stress and worsening mental health among these workers,” stated the survey.

In November 2021, 92 per cent of nurses reported feeling more stress, for example, and the reported desire to leave their job increased. However, due to personal factors and labour market conditions, the actual number of health care workers who left their profession remained unchanged from before the pandemic (an annual rate of about 1.5 per cent).

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