“When are we going to get more staff?”

Front-line staff like Nancy need more help.

Usually when you get better at something it gets easier. Nancy’s work has grown more complicated.

She’s been an RN in long-term care for 10 years and she’s never worked so hard. Residents today have more care needs. And if they didn’t come in with dementia, a good many are showing signs of it.

“Like Edna,” she says.

“It’s really a privilege to care for someone like her. She’s a beautiful person, she’s engaged, she’s funny. She needs extra care and everyone loves working with her. But sometimes we fall behind schedule and when her routine breaks down we’ll see behaviour. That’s hard.”

Not that it’s anyone’s fault, Nancy explains.

“It’s not a big home, but mornings are difficult if the night shift has had other priorities and they haven’t gotten around to waking and dressing at least a few residents. On the day shift, we’re staffed one PSW for every 10 residents. That can be a handful even without any behaviours to manage.”

Nancy helps the PSWs where she’s required – and as much as she can on top of that – but her rounds include things that take time: there’s wound care, administering meds, tube feedings, ostomy care and checking residents on ventilation. And then there’s the reporting.

“That’s where things like point of care technology and tablets could make a real difference,” says Nancy. Right now she uses a little cheat-sheet to jot care notes about a resident, instead of documenting in real time.

“But let’s say I see 10 residents, after that I have to spend more than an hour filling out paperwork. Those are precious care hours that are being spent behind a desk,” she says.

The long-term care sector 
must build its human resources strength. The need for additional PSWs and nursing professionals is ongoing and the need will only grow as the care requirements of Ontario’s seniors grow.

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