With strained services, public health psychologists consider leaving the sector: APNL

Dr. Janine Hubbard, president of the Association of Psychology Newfoundland Labrador, says the demand for psychologists has reached an “unprecedented” level. (Meghan McCabe/CBC)

Anxiety and depression have reached crisis levels in Newfoundland and Labrador, according to the provincial association of psychologists, which says a spike in demand for services has left many people without a therapist.

In a survey conducted in February, the Association of Psychology Newfoundland Labrador collected data that suggests demand is on the rise, waiting lists are full and many people cannot get the help they need. need.

“It’s unprecedented. While we’re glad people are reaching out – we’ve worked very hard to reduce the stigma – what we’re seeing is services just aren’t available,” said Dr. Janine Hubbard, President of the APNL. CBC News on Tuesday.

“As someone who has to turn individuals away, it’s heartbreaking because we know they’re in crisis, we know they’re asking for help.”

Compounding the situation is psychologists leaving the public health system, adding pressure on private care as patients flow into that sector, Hubbard said. There are currently 211 licensed psychologists in Newfoundland and Labrador in public and private health.

The APNL survey suggests that psychologists are leaving the public sector due to frustrations with the system. Just over 52% of people working in public health who responded to the survey said they had recently considered quitting their job.

When asked what it would take to change the minds of those considering leaving the public sector, the most common responses were increased respect, increased autonomy, better understanding of the role, education and/or skills of psychologists, an increase in salary, increased opportunities to use psychology. skills and increased financial support for education and training opportunities.

According to a survey by the Newfoundland Labrador Association of Psychology, approximately 52% of psychologists working in public health have recently considered quitting their job. (wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock)

With that, 31 percent said they were considering full-time private practice, and 12 percent say they were considering leaving the province altogether.

In some areas of the public sector, such as education, health and post-secondary education, there are 30 to 50 percent vacancies, Hubbard said.

“It’s not just COVID-related,” she said. “It’s been going on for five, six years.”

In a statement to CBC News, the Department of Health said it recognizes that vacancies for clinical psychologists are of concern and that challenges persist at regional health authorities across the province.

The ministry said RHAs are “directly responsible for the administration and delivery of health services”, including responsibility for human resource management, staffing and recruitment, and that it continues to work working closely with RHAs on how best to resolve issues.

Currently, there are about 35 vacancies in regional health authorities, the ministry said.

Consultation and retention

Hubbard said psychologists feel the same frustrations as other health care providers, with things like burnout, inability to practice to their full scope, and structural changes imposed without any input or consultation being challenges. concerns near the top of the list.

“We’re actually well trained in areas like evaluation and program design. If changes are made, we just ask to be included in those early planning stages,” Hubbard said.

“There is a real need to focus on … retention issues for mid-career and senior psychologists.”

However, the Department of Health said it has engaged psychologists consistently throughout the development of its provincial “stepped care model” – which aims to match individuals with the right level of care, at the right moment – ​​as part of the Towards Recovery action plan. The ministry said it had assured psychologists of their involvement throughout the development process with representation on the provincial stepped care committee.

Regarding retention, the Department of Health said an assistant deputy minister position in charge of healthcare recruitment and retention has been created to help attract healthcare professionals to T. -N.-L.

“The recruitment and retention of psychologists and other healthcare professionals is an ongoing issue for many jurisdictions around the world. The situation here in Newfoundland and Labrador is no different,” the statement said.

“Clinical psychologists are considered an ‘in-demand’ profession under the Office of Immigration and Multiculturalism’s Priority Skills NL initiative. Overseas-trained clinical psychologists were asked to complete a declaration interest and interest has been limited to date.”

Additionally, the Department of Health said the provincial government has increased the bursaries to $20,000 and are available to students enrolled in psychology training programs who agree to fulfill a commitment of service in one of them. health regions of the province. The department said it was working with RHAs to address competition with the private sector as well as with publicly employed psychologists in other jurisdictions.

CBC News asked each of the province’s regional health authorities for comment on Tuesday. No comments were received at the time of publication.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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