“Ça va bien aller…” But when?

“Ça va bien aller…” But when?

After being forced stop work, an exhausted technologist shares this personal account of morale levels in her sector. Her experiences resonate with far too many health and social services employees in the spring of 2021.

I have been working as a hospital radiology technologist for more than a decade. I have always enjoyed the challenges of my work, but the past few years have been increasingly stressful, especially this last one. I am currently on medical leave due to work overload and intense stress experienced on the job.

For over a year now, we’ve been subject to the whims of department heads as a result of the ministerial order suspending our collective agreements. I was forced to work full-time after my renewal request for my part-time leave without pay was denied, adding to the exhaustion of the past few months. I informed my superiors on numerous occasions of my physical and psychological exhaustion—which was clearly visible, according to my friends and colleagues. Each time, I left their offices with nothing but a pat on the shoulder, after being told, essentially, “Hang in there, things are hard for everyone. We can’t give you any days off.”

On top of all this, at the height of the pandemic, schools closed. Were we entitled to measures to help balance family, work, and school in our home lives? No.

With two elementary-age children, the unexpected school closure required a lot of juggling. I was forced to turn down shifts, take days off at my own expense, work weekends, and violate COVID-19 safety protocols by leaving my children with their grandparents just so I could get to work.

In my sector, two new projects were implemented during this pandemic year. Why overload a sector that’s already in survival mode and required to provide services 24/7? We were already understaffed, and now qualified employees are turning to other specializations, given their limited prospects for positions with job security and for being replaced when they take time off.

The first project we dealt with, the CRDS-i, made it necessary to repeatedly introduce new methods and adjust old ones—in addition to all the changes and new protocols we had to contend with on account of the pandemic.

Another project came to fruition around the same time, with the arrival and installation of a new second machine, after years of waiting. But opening a new room in a hospital is a major undertaking that requires a great deal of time—a precious resource that was in short supply even before these upheavals. Once again, we were forced to do more with less.

We are frequently denied time off, and our summer leave was limited to three weeks in 2020. As summer 2021 approaches, the same threat is hanging over us.

Mandatory overtime is often imposed on us with less than 24 or 48 hours notice, even though the schedule indicates several days in advance that the shifts in question are understaffed. Instead of curtailing programs or cancelling last-minute appointments, managers are calling on their teams to do even more, arguing that times are tough and everyone needs to be putting in extra effort. But for more than a year, we’ve been giving it all we’ve got and getting nothing in return!

Every week since March 2020, colleagues have been collapsing in the line of duty, just as I did. Some report back after a few weeks, while others are absent for months. Many have announced that they are quitting to go and work in smaller facilities in the integrated centres, where performance pressures and work overload are less extreme. A number of employees have gone on maternity leave. Yet despite receiving notice of such leave, department heads have failed to take into account these employees’ absence, which has resulted in a heavier workload for the remaining personnel.

Technologists are rarely willing to change institutions and start their careers all over again at the bottom rung. In practice, the prospects for hiring extra technologists are limited to graduating students who first have to complete an internship, as required by the Order. Year after year, we find ourselves with no reinforcements on the horizon until late May or early June. We’ve known since the hirings last June that it would be practically impossible to hire any new staff, and that the weight of keeping our department afloat would rest entirely on the shoulders of the remaining team.

There was already a shortage of technologists when I started out in my profession. Back then, though, we were able to keep our heads above water. Now the prevailing sentiment is that we’re overwhelmed. For the first time, I’m not sure that I’ll end my career in the same field in which I started. And I guarantee that I won’t be encouraging my children to work in hospitals when the time comes for them to choose a career.

by Geneviève* | May 5, 2021   *The author’s name has been changed

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