Blog originally published on April 6, 2017.
Updated on September 22, 2021.
A cycle of excessive overtime and unsustainable workloads, with widespread verbal and physical violence, have led to a decline in nurses’ health, including nurses’ mental health. With a growing nurse shortage evident in many parts of the country, and further nurse shortages on the horizon, this situation is likely to worsen.
Linda Silas

President, Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU)

Canadian Nurses and Mental Health

overworked nurse rests against a hospital wall

Canadian nurses suffer from high rates of PTSD, anxiety, depression and burnout. This is a long-standing phenomenon that was identified before the COVID pandemic and is by no means unique to Canada. Nursing is a high-stress job that delivers emotional and physical fatigue with serious mental health consequences for RNs and LPNs across North America. From carrying a double workload to operating on irregular hours to working 12hr shifts with no breaks, nurses are carrying heavy burdens within demanding environments, and it’s taking its toll.

Nurse Burnout

The first reference to “burnout” was identified in healthcare literature in the mid-1970s. Decades of research have now confirmed that up to 65% of nurses experience burnout. It can originate from mental health disorders, substance abuse, changes in workload or technology, moral distress, and harassment from patients or colleagues.

Today, Canada’s opioid crisis, staffing shortages, and relentless COVID stress have culminated into a perfect storm for modern health care facilities and their staff. Stagnant pay rates have only made the situation worse. The consequences of our collective inaction are dire – nurses are leaving the industry and this is hurting the ones who stay most.

The Exodus of Canadian Nurses

nurse suffering from burnout in a hospital corridorIn 2016, a Montreal Healthcare Manager told the Huffington Post that “Many nurses have exited the system” because the stress of the job has grown to be too much, especially amidst staffing cutbacks. Things have only gotten worse over the last five years.

CBC reports that in Ontario today, hospitals currently face a 10 to 12 percent vacancy rate for nursing positions. The nurses that have previously identified being overworked are finding themselves in more dire need of support every day.

Although there are many new nurses entering the healthcare system each year, the fastest way to meet Canada’s nursing needs would be to increase staff retention so that new nurses entering the field serve as additional staff rather than replacement staff.  However, with stress levels so high, it is unlikely that the rate of nurses exiting the field will slow down anytime soon.

We need to do more for Canadian Nurses

Our nurses have been calling for better working conditions and we need to do more to reach that objective. “Better compensation, greater professional autonomy, stronger management and training programs, and more flexibility in location and scheduling” can top the list of where to start (Huffington Post). Nurses whose positions meet these criteria experience greater job satisfaction and are more able to cope with the demands of their work.

The Travel Nurse Opportunity

Travel nursing offers an incredible opportunity for nurses to take more control of their career, and their mental health today. It offers a strong win-win solution for understaffed facilities to gain the nurse-power they need to run efficiently while satisfying health care professionals who have enough control over their career and their life to avoid total burnout.

Career advantages of travel nursing

Travel nurses enjoy time off in the wilderness of British Columbia

  • Work in the location you want to.
  • Make higher-than-average wages.
  • Have the flexibility to take a couple of weeks or months off per year, when you want to.
  • Travel.
  • Learn new skills and develop as a professional.
  • Build new relationships with your co-workers.
  • Be focused & able to deal with the challenges at every shift.
  • Enjoy your life to the fullest.

If you’re feeling burnt out in your current nursing position, we want to hear from you. Select Medical Connections strives to help fill the need for nurses within Canada. Our team is highly aware of the fight that nurses have to put up on a daily basis to make it through a challenging shift. We want to offer you a chance to restore balance to your life without making a financial sacrifice.

Apply to be a travel nurse and one of our Career Consultants will contact you to go through our available positions – with no commitment required.

To all the nurses out there, stay strong & always, always take care of #1. (That’s you!)

travel nurse in rural BC nurse relaxing on a lake nurses enjoying time off