Between January and September 2021, 772 nurses and birthing assistants have left their jobs in Slovak healthcare, data from the registers of nurses and birthing assistants suggests.
This represents a 20 percent increase in nurses leaving their jobs compared to the same time frame in 2020, the Slovak Chamber of Nurses and Midwives (SKSaPA) reported. SKSaPA is an independent estate organisation that works at a national level in Slovakia.
Thousands of nurses missing
The EU's average nurse per 1,000 people ratio is 8.4, but in Slovakia, it is 5.7. If Slovakia is to achieve comparable figures to the rest of the EU, it would need a total of 46,000 nurses. Slovakia’s health care currently employs 31,309 nurses.
“This means that there is a shortage of over 14,000 nurses,” the president of SKSaPA Iveta Lazorová reported.
She added that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is weakening the nursing field.
Universities specialised in training nurses have also for a long time reported a lack of finances for departments dedicated to caretaking. Despite increasing interest in the field, graduates are not immediately capable of carrying out highly specialised procedures. These require further clinical expertise and more years in school.
The average nurse in Slovakia is 47 years old, with SKSaPA having registered over 5,290 nurses over 60. These are nurses who can often take advantage of early retirement.
Universities’ lack of finances does not help the situation as schools are incapable of training new professionals fast enough to offset the large number of people leaving the field.
Pandemic could destroy nursing
The reasons for the exodus of workers from nursing are not only caused by the aging of workers in the field, SKSaPA opined. The mass departure from those positions is also driven by unfavourable working conditions, poor workplace management and low wages.
“Our proposal to modify coefficients for calculating wages, and thereby to improve the financial recompensation of nurses’ labour, is being considered by the Health Ministry. Though, we must state that only an unofficial promise to, from January 1, 2022, improve the wages of nurses, will not suffice. Nurses need to be motivated and adequately rewarded today, not tomorrow,” the president of SKSaPA stated.
The office director of SKSaPA Lukáš Kober added that “nursing is the backbone of health care, and maybe the pandemic will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back”.