The demands of the COVID-19 pandemic led more nurses, personal support workers and others in the health-care field to work more overtime hours but also miss more days at work compared to pre-pandemic times, a recent report from Statistics Canada has found.
The study, released Thursday, focused on nurses, personal support workers and care aides, and other health-care workers with the exception of physicians, as they are most likely to be self-employed, StatCan said.
The findings confirm what many health-care workers have reported throughout the pandemic, namely increased burnout and having to work longer hours.
The report also comes as job vacancies remain high in the health-care sector, more than doubling to 95,200 in the first quarter of 2023, compared to 43,000 during the same period in 2020, StatCan said.
“With demand exceeding supply, the challenges posed by staff shortages have invariably affected the workload and working conditions of health-care workers,” the report said.
StatCan found in 2020, full-time health-care employees missed 17.6 days of work on average due to an illness or disability, up 3.4 days from 2019, making it the highest level seen since the late 1990s.
This became especially common among workers required to treat patients with known or possible cases of COVID-19, the report says.
Nurses, in particular, drove this increase, missing 19.5 days on average in 2020, up 4.6 days from 2019.
However, personal support workers and care aides reported the most missed days overall at 21.6 in 2020, up 3.4 from 2019.
Although average sick days in 2021 returned to about the same level as 2019, it rose even higher to 18 days on average in 2022, which StatCan ties to the rise in cases of the infectious Omicron variant.