The P.E.I. Nurses’ Union says the province is short roughly 70 full- and part-time registered nurses.

Union president Mona O’Shea said a number of vacancies have been posted but the province has struggled to keep up with demand for about seven years.

‘There’s very little work-life balance left for the registered nurses on the front line right now. Morale is poor.’—Mona O’Shea

“A lot of the vacancies started back when [Health PEI] initiated the Model of Care in 2010, there was a lot of shifting of jobs at that time,” she said.

“Once the dust settled on the Model of Care, the employer realized that they cut off their nose to spite their face and left a lot of the units and their facilities short-staffed with RNs.”

‘Morale is poor’

O’Shea said the province can attempt to combat the greater need for nurses by expanding the number of seats in UPEI’s nursing program.

The program currently seats roughly 65 a year. O’Shea said the province would benefit from expanding that program and increasing the number of sponsored seats with government-funding from 18 to 30.

“The vacancies within the system right now means that the nurses that are left behind are doing double duty, they’re taking on more of the workload, they’re getting denied vacation time, they’re getting denied leave of absences for education,” she said.

“There’s very little work-life balance left for the registered nurses on the front line right now. Morale is poor.”

In an emailed statement, Health PEI said roughly 30 per cent more registered nurses have been added to the health-care system since 2007 — upping the complement of registered nurses to about 1,350.

Additionally, Health PEI said the province’s first-ever nursing strategy, released earlier this year, will focus on strengthening recruitment and retention as well as implementing the New Nurse Graduate Employment Guarantee Program.

This program looks to provide new graduates with full-time employment for two years — or roughly 3,900 hours of work.