Web page of the Psychological Association of PEI.
A shortage of psychologists in P.E.I. is leading to long waiting lists and a lack of access to counseling and psychological services across the province, says the Psychological Association of P.E.I.
Dr. Nadine DeWolfe, president of the association, says she is concerned over a shortage of positions for psychologists not only in the English Language School Board but also in addictions and mental health, autism assessment and in the management of chronic health conditions.
“There is a lack of access for Islanders,” DeWolfe said.
“Some of the problem is that the positions just don’t exist or not enough exist… we need more psychologists. Even private practices, where people have to pay, have long waiting lists.”
This year, five school psychologists went on leave from the English Language School Board, leaving only five psychologists to meet the needs of over 13,000 students.
School board superintendent Cynthia Fleet acknowledges this will mean longer wait times for psychological assessments, which were already seeing delays of up to two years.
“Having only half the professional personnel available to do this work, we will not proceed at the same rate and this will be slower process,” Fleet said.
DeWolfe says it is no coincidence that five people took leave all at once this year while there are also shortages of psychologists across several departments that offer counseling and psychological services.
She suggested the province needs to look at workload and scope of practice for these health professionals if they want to retain and recruit more.
“I think there’s a number of factors impacting work satisfaction and that is therefore impacting retention,” DeWolfe said.
“I think it’s conditions of work, job security, benefits and compensation, but I really think a lot of it is about scope of practice and autonomy.”
The government has noted the shortage and is about to engage in a cross-departmental review of the role of psychologists.
This will be part of the mental health and addictions review, which Health Minister Doug Currie promised to release in the next few weeks.
“If we’re doing a review, we don’t want to confine this to education, but also (extend it) to health and justice because the shortage applies across the system,” said Education Deputy Minister Sandy MacDonald.
“We want to look and see what are the issues?” he said.
“We’re just getting down now to working with the mental health and addictions group… So once that report is released and that work starts, we’ll be piggybacking with them on the psychologist part of that. That will be ongoing in the next couple of weeks.”
In the meantime, the school board is contracting some work to private practice psychologists to try to ensure students and parents are not forced to wait unduly long periods for school assessments.