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Less money, less care: How nurses in long-term care allocate hours of needed care in a context of chronic shortage


Diane Morin, Faculty of Nursing Sciences, 4108-A, Pavillon Paul-Comtois, Université Laval, Quebec, Quebec, Canada. Email:


The average funding of long-term care in Quebec, Canada, currently covers < 70% of the care hours required, which means that 30% of needs are unmet. The aims of this study were to understand how nurses, when they are in a position to do so, assign care hours, which needs are unmet by care dimensions and whether dimensions with unmet needs vary with client profiles. One-hundred-and-four nurses working in long-term care facilities participated in the study. They filled out individual questionnaires containing three case studies in the form of vignettes. When obliged to cut 30% of the care hours, the nurses ensured that treatment and diagnostic methods were done as prescribed and that vital feeding and elimination functions were preserved. However, they made the choice to cut some mobility and personal-care activities and, especially, communication with patients, families and other professionals. In this, they partly follow the theoretical care prioritization approach of Lefebvre and Dupuis, who take into account the degree of discomfort caused by the situation, the problem's place in Maslow's hierarchy of needs and the availability of a solution. Thus, although the choices made by the nurses follow a logical pattern, they could result in medium-term deterioration in the functional autonomy of their older patients. The overall consequences of these decisions are discussed.