As some hospitals are being forced to use significant numbers of nurses from private agencies, Guelph General Hospital is using just four private nurses in its emergency department right now.
The four nurses have been provided education and training to help support the emergency department, said Melissa Skinner, GGH vice-president of patient services and chief nursing executive, in an email.
The nurses will cover 23 shifts between Aug. 19 to Sept. 25. This averages out to about six, 12 hour shifts per week.
“No other GGH departments are using agency nurses,” said Skinner.
During the pandemic GGH added an extra eight treatment spaces in the emergency department.
“This means we needed more nurses to care for those patients,” said Skinner. “So our baseline staff number has increased.”
The current vacancies in the emergency department are four full-time nursing positions and 16 part-time nursing vacancies.
The total number of nurse vacancies at GGH, according to their careers page, is 34 vacant positions: 18 registered nurse positions and 16 registered practical nurse positions.
Five of the 20 vacancies are staff currently on maternity leave and plan to return.
The cost of the agency nurses was not provided, although Skinner said costs to date have been minimal.
“Our hope is, as the health human resource shortage stabilizes, we will be able to reduce the number of agency nurses needed,” said Skinner.
To attract nurses to work at GGH it has an ongoing recruitment campaign on social media.
Skinner said it is not only about recruitment but retention of staff.
“We’ve redesigned our orientation program for new hires which is helping them adjust to being at GGH,” she said. “We’ve also invested heavily in our staff wellness program which supports staff in this demanding environment so they can continue to do their great work.”
To further help the staffing shortage in the hospital the program called the supervised practice experience partnership implemented the College of Nurses of Ontario and Ontario Health.
GGH has had two nurses successfully complete the program, said Perry Hagerman, senior communications specialist at GGH.
“We continue to be engaged in the program and welcome internationally educated nurses to apply,” said Hagerman.
"The pressures hospitals across the province are experiencing come from a variety of sources. It will take many different strategies and a multi-faceted approach to stabilize the system. This program is just one example of how we are partnering and working together to increase our health human resources in Ontario," said Skinner.
The proposal from the Ontario’s nursing college to register internationally trained nurses on a temporary basis is an extension of the partnership.