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Nurses need a break, Yukon government says

Data suggests number of nurses dropped from last year; registrar calls comparison ‘a little misleading’
Health centres in Carcross and Ross River are experiencing temporarily reduced service that the Yukon government attributes to staffing shortages being felt in the territory and around the world. (Public Health Insider/Courtesy)

The Yukon government says it’s working to mitigate burnout and keep nurses working safely in the territory while ensuring Yukoners get the care they need.

“Nurses have sacrificed much of their personal lives and time to their jobs over the past two years and are needing a break to maintain their health and wellness,” reads a June 14 email statement from Samantha Henney, COVID-19 communications manager for the department of Health and Social Services.

“We are doing everything we can to balance supporting our nurses and maintain services to clients by working with allied partners in public safety.”

Two rural health centres are currently experiencing temporarily reduced services that the territorial government attributes to staffing shortages being felt in Yukon and around the world. Carcross will be down to one nurse for emergencies only, while Ross River will have no nursing staff for the next several days.

The Yukon Registered Nurses Association (YRNA) tracks data on registered nurses and nurse practitioners working in the territory across employers.

As of June 15, YRNA had 579 practising registrants, which does not count licensed practical nurses and registered psychiatric nurses who are regulated by the Yukon government’s professional licensing and regulatory affairs branch.

Last year, there were 715 nurses, which was the highest count since 2017.

That compares to 584 nurses in 2020-21 and 485 nurses in 2017-18.

The data provided by YRNA registrar Paul Banks in an email makes it appear that there has been a significant drop in the number of nurses this year.

However, Banks said the numbers are a “little misleading” given that a “high percentage of our registrant base lives outside the territory and many are agency nurses who work a couple weeks a year and do not renew their registration once our registration year ends” on March 31.

“In general, we have been seeing a slight increase in registration numbers year over year for the past several years,” he said.

The health department’s statement notes there will be emergency medical services coverage “at all times” to support the health centres.

A primary health-care nurse will be available for emergency services only, as well as a community health nurse for public health purposes during the day time, until June 16 at the Carcross Health Centre.

From June 17 to 22, Carcross has one primary health-care nurse on hand for emergency services only.

Between June 14 and 20, there will be no nursing staff at the Ross River Health Centre.

Carcross typically has a regular complement of three primary health-care nurses and a community health nurse, while Ross River usually has a regular complement of two primary health-care nurses, according to the statement.

In the statement, the health and safety of current staff is being prioritized.

“We are tackling this from recruitment, retention, orientation and training and mentorship perspectives,” the department said.

“Recruitment is underway and this is a global issue with no simple solutions.”

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the department said, there is a national and global shortage of nurses and other health-care providers.

“The Yukon is actively working on various nursing solutions including recruitment, staffing, contract nurses and other options.”

READ MORE: Two Yukon rural health centres experiencing service disruptions

Contact Dana Hatherly at

Dana Hatherly

About the Author: Dana Hatherly

I’m the legislative reporter for the Yukon News.
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