British Columbia

These nursing students say they're eager to help northern B.C.'s stretched health-care system

As much of northern British Columbia faces a severe nursing shortage, two student nurses say they are eager to start helping out during the pandemic. 

'I just want to get in there and help out. They are so short staffed,' one student said

Amanda Durrant (left) and Savannah Reeves (right) are student nurses at the University of Northern B.C. They say they want to help relieve the ongoing staffing shortage in the province's north. (Submitted by Amanda Durrant and Savannah Reeves)

As much of northern British Columbia faces a severe nursing shortage, two student nurses say they are eager to help out during the pandemic. 

Northern Health, which covers the northern half of B.C., described the shortage as "troubling," and said the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened stress and contributed to longer wait times for emergency room patients.

Some nurses in the province have gone as far as leaving the health-care industry because of burnout.

But Savannah Reeves, a third-year student in the four-year nursing program at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC), says the pandemic has only increased her passion for the career. She worked last summer at the hospital in Prince George and plans to do the same next year.

"I'm really excited to help out and care for patients when we need it now more than ever," Reeves told host Carolina de Ryk on CBC's Daybreak North

"We do see this burnout and we see how strained our health-care system is right now. I think that's why most people go into nursing is because they want to help."

She says the staffing shortage isn't a new problem but has only gotten worse with the added stress of the pandemic. Reeves says hearing stories from her mother, who is also a nurse, about the severity of the shortage motivated her to join nursing herself. 

The University of Northern British Columbia campus in Prince George. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Reeves hopes to encourage other student nurses in her program to stay in the north and help out in the hospitals where it's needed. 

"[These] big issues won't be solved by one person extra working the unit. But it does make a difference in the environment of the unit in the sense that you can come to work and you can try your best to make a difference in your co-workers' lives as well as in your patients' lives," Reeves said.

'I just want to get in there and help out'

Amanda Durrant, also a third-year nursing student at UNBC, says the pandemic has reaffirmed her career goals. 

"I just want to get over this pandemic and hopefully we can move on with our lives, but we can't do that until, you know [until] the majority of people are comfortable getting the COVID vaccine," said Durrant, who also worked as a student nurse last summer and plans to do the same next year.

"I just want to get in there and help out. They are so short staffed."

Earlier this month, the province's health minister announced more than $6 million in funding to help recruit and retain more health-care workers in northern B.C.

"Every person living in the north deserves to have the best possible health care close to home, when and where they need it," Adrian Dix said.

Northern Health says it is facing a severe nursing shortage. (Getty Images)

Durrant says she has a particular interest in vaccines and wants to help educate people about them while fighting misinformation.

"I have a four year old, and when he was a baby, I was trying to do my best to make the best decisions I could, and I was led astray down to vaccine misinformation," she said. 

She says after doing her own research and training as a nurse, her opinion on vaccines has changed. Durrant wants to provide people with accurate information — something she says she wasn't given when she needed it. 

"I went into nursing to be able to be that advocate for parents and people who are unsure about vaccines," Durrant said.

"It's a very complex science, and I find that people are just making these decisions based on an emotional stance. And it's scary for a lot of people. So I'm hoping that I can be there."

With files from Daybreak North and Courtney Dickson


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