British Columbia's skilled work force is expected to undergo an invisible shift in coming years as the pool of younger workers becomes smaller than the number of aging workers who have their eye on retirement. In a 10-part series, The Globe and Mail looks at the 10 jobs expected to be in highest demand in B.C. in the next decade. This is Part One.
For Lisa Walker, the upside of working as a registered nurse is clear: When patients arrive at the hospital – sick, injured or otherwise distressed – her job gives her a first-hand opportunity to provide comfort and relief.
"The best part of my job, when I was on the front line, absolutely was having good outcomes, helping people, knowing that you're making a difference in people's lives," she said. "Most people, when they're coming to the hospital, it's not a good day. It's possibly one of their worst days. Being able to support patients and families, that's the most rewarding part."
But Ms. Walker, currently on leave from work at Langley Memorial Hospital to sit on the B.C. Nurses' Union (BCNU) council, is also well familiar with the job's challenges. Registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses are the most in-demand skilled jobs in B.C.; about 25,000 will be needed by 2022, according to government statistics.
For those currently working as nurses, limited staffing often means long, high-stress shifts, growing workloads and lots of overtime.
"I spent quite a number of years working in the emergency room and that was very stressful," said Ms. Walker, whose daughter Kaitlyn is also pursuing a career in nursing. "Every day, we were coming to work with the department full and the waiting room full and the ambulances lined up. It just never seemed to end."
The BCNU has labelled several B.C. hospitals as being in "crisis" mode, telling tales of unsafe staffing levels, critically ill patients not getting speedy care and patient overflows into hospital hallways. And, with B.C.'s aging population – the proportion of Canadians aged 65 and older is projected to grow from one-in-seven to one-in-four by 2036 – the demand for health services is only expected to grow.
The overwhelming majority (96 per cent) of currently employed nurses are female, according to the most recent census statistics (2006), with more than half (53 per cent) between the ages of 45 and 64.
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