The Hub Helping nurses advance skills critical to Canada’s health-care woes
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Helping nurses advance skills critical to Canada’s health-care woes

By: Bryan Alary

Athabasca University researcher Dr. Venise Bryan explores experiences of nurses who take on expanded roles

A worldwide shortage of nurses has resulted in an 86% increase in the number of vacant nursing positions in Canada. This puts strain on health-care systems across the country. It. also makes retaining nurses—and helping them advance their education—critical to providing safe, quality care for patients.

One part of the solution, says Athabasca University (AU) researcher Dr. Venise Bryan, is to ensure that nurses and other health professionals can grow and advance their skills to take on greater responsibilities within health systems.

“If we are encouraging people to grow and to progress through their careers—to study up to the highest level that they are able to—then we are able to cover more gaps in the system,” said Bryan, an assistant professor of nursing in the Faculty of Health Disciplines.

Workforce data from Statistics Canada shows a sharp spike in the number of vacant nursing positions over the past two years. 

According to the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing, post-secondary institutions across the country graduate about 12,500 nurses per year.

“This is not enough to fill the gap in vacancy rates,” Bryan said.

Pilot study focuses on transition from nursing roles

Bryan is studying the “transition experiences” of health-care workers as they advance into expanded clinical roles.

For instance, she’s looking at the experiences of health-care aides who go back to school to become licensed practical nurses (LPNs), or LPNs who go on to become registered nurses (RNs), or RNs who advance to nurse practitioners.

In a pilot study, Bryan interviewed AU students and nurse mentors, called preceptors, in the Post-LPN to Bachelor of Nursing program. The research focused on nurses in their final practicum to understand supports they need to grow and thrive in their new roles.

“At the end of the day, the aim is to reduce patient harm, and error,” Bryan said. “Supporting our health-care workers to develop their self-efficacy, self-confidence, and competence encourages them to stay in the profession.”

Nursing experiences in other Canadian provinces

Bryan has expanded her study to other Canadian provinces: Alberta, Ontario, and Nova Scotia. The findings from her research could help improve nursing education, mentorship, and retention in Canada.

As Bryan noted, there isn’t one solution to Canada’s health-care challenges, and change won’t happen overnight.

But retaining nurses and helping them thrive in expanded roles is a critical solution to the system, she said.

“Nurses are the backbone of health care and make up the largest workforce in the Canadian health-care system.”

Athabasca University nursing researcher Dr. Venise Bryan

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  • April 17, 2024
Tagged In:
health care, nursing,
Guest Blog from:
Bryan Alary