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Severe shortage at Kamloops hospital putting staff mental health at risk: Nurse

Royal Inland Hospital, Kamloops

An emergency nurse at Royal Inland Hospital says they are suffering from anxiety, depression and panic attacks.

The nurse has worked in the emergency department at the Kamloops hospital for a few years and loved the job at first, but the short staffing situation has taken a toll on their mental health this the past year.

READ MORE: Dangerous staffing crisis at Kamloops hospital years in the making

She is one of several nurses from a variety of departments who have come forward to iNFOnews in recent months to describe what they call a staffing shortage crisis at the hospital, particularly in the emergency and intensive care departments, and how the strain is affecting them.  

For the last few months the nurse has significantly reduced the hours worked at the hospital while spending more time at home working on their mental health. The nurse said they are concerned about the mental health of other healthcare staff after hearing similar reports. She was granted anonymity because of the likelihood of repercussions from Interior Health.

“I’m exhausted,” they said. “I cry before my shifts. I’m scared I’ll make a mistake or miss something or I’ll be in triage and someone will die in my waiting room. These are life and death situations. The fact someone’s life could be in my hands and I could make their outcome worse is a terrifying feeling.”

This is just the latest nurse to risk their job speaking publicly about conditions at the hospital in what they describe as a crisis. Doctors and nurses have also been speaking to local Liberal MLAs Peter Milobar and Todd Stone who called a press conference May 26 to address the crisis at the hospital with data showing inadequate staffing levels for three units.

The Emergency Room was down to 40% staffing levels during the day on Friday, May 20, at 53% that night and 46% for Saturday’s day shift. Ward 3W was staffed at 50% Friday through Saturday. The Intensive Care Unit had higher staffing levels at 58% Friday and 66% Saturday.

READ MORE: Kamloops ER had less than 50% staffing on long weekend: B.C. Liberals

The nurse said the emergency department is still severely understaffed with some nurses working up to 12 hours without stopping for breaks. They said managing without enough staff has become normalized.

“I keep surpassing my worst shift of my career,” they said. “It is so painful and frustrating when you know you should be doing a better job but you can’t. We go into nursing to help people. We are facing moral dilemma and stress, unable to give our full attention to our patients.”

The nurse said part of the emergency department is full of stretchers and the sitting area has four stretchers in it, with more being stuffed into the hallway.

“Other floors can say they are full,” they said. “You can’t do that in the emergency department. Earlier this year we had to call IT in because our computer system is not designed to have over 49 patients in it at one time.”

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The nurse feels guilty taking more time off and said fellow nurses feel guilty when calling in sick.

“My coworkers say they are exhausted, struggling to get out of bed or even play with their children,” they said. “Right now you are going to get at least one sick call on every shift because everyone is burned out.”

The nurse has tools in place to care for their mental health but said it is impossible to know when they will be well enough to increase working hours at the hospital again.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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