Nurses warn ‘burnout’ could worsen ‘chronic’ staff shortage in NI as hospital pressures continue

Nurses say the coronavirus pandemic has “highlighted the cracks” that had existed in Northern Ireland’s health service for years.

Tuesday, 8th June 2021, 5:13 pm
Rita Devlin said there have been cracks in the system for many years

Speaking to the News Letter, Rita Devlin, the acting director of the Royal College of Nursing in Northern Ireland, warned that the existing shortage of nurses – a key concern in the industrial action that rocked the system before the pandemic last year – could be worsened if nurses suffering burnout decide to retire early or simply quit nursing altogether.

“The unprecedented demand on nursing staff throughout this pandemic has highlighted the cracks in the system that have existed for many years,” she said.

Nurses are telling us that this has had a huge impact on their wellbeing and many are at risk of burning out.”

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Ms Devlin continued: “We are deeply concerned that this will push staff to retire early or leave the profession altogether.

“Our members have reported feelings of fatigue, anxiety and moral distress associated with dealing with high levels of death and dying patients and the difficult experience of supporting relatives who have been unable to see their loved ones.

“All of this takes its toll and we believe staff need proper access to support, time for rest and recuperation, and proper engagement in plans to rebuild services.

“For some time we have been calling for chronic nursing workforce shortages to be addressed urgently and for this to be accountable in law through safe staffing legislation.”

She called for a “a proper workforce plan” to address waiting lists, adding: “We have received a commitment from our Department of Health for this important legislation but it needs to move more quickly.”