This Nursing Week Help Us, Help You.

The planned events for National Nursing Week alone are significant reasons to recognize and celebrate our Registered Nurses (RNs) and Nurse Practitioners (NPs) this year.  However, this year’s activities are put on hold due to the global pandemic we are currently living in. The World Health Organization deemed 2020: The Year of the Nurse and Midwife. In addition, May 12th marks the bicentenary year of Florence Nightingale’s birth, the founder of modern nursing.

However, it is the unplanned event of a global pandemic, that truly highlights why we recognize and celebrate the importance of Registered Nurses and Nurse Practitioners’ expertise, skills, and contributions. Without intending to, COVID-19 has reminded the world about the critical importance of safe staffing levels and skill-mix. As the news media coverage confirmed, the difference between being well cared for and not is often linked to the capacity and knowledge of the frontline staff. COVID-19 cast a spotlight on the necessity of safe work environments and care practices, not only to protect our nurses but their patients/ clients/ residents.

This National Nursing Week let’s give RNs and NPs the recognition and respect they deserve. More than platitudes and applause, (although much appreciated), let’s recognize their courageous work, expertise and dedication by reinvesting in the nursing profession. In the wake of this pandemic, it has uncovered the dire need for New Brunswick to establish a viable health human resource strategy to better protect our population’s health today, and into the future. COVID-19 has shown us that when we break down unnecessary barriers and work together much can be achieved. Let us continue to do this to improve and find innovative solutions for our health care system.

AN OPPORTUNITY TO INVEST IN NURSING

One of the most important ways we can recognize the contributions of the nursing profession is to invest in adequate staffing. New Brunswick, like every province in Canada, is struggling to recruit and retain Registered Nurses and Nurse Practitioners. The Regional Health Authorities have publicly spoken to the fact that they must hire at least 520 registered nurses annually over the next five years just to keep our health care system operating at status quo. This number does not reflect RNs needed in our long-term care sector either.

However, there is a silver lining. We are fortunate in a small province like New Brunswick to have two universities that teach nursing with multiple satellite campuses spread out across the province. It is time for government to take a closer look at reinvesting in the nursing faculties. There will always be a need for Registered Nurses and Nurse Practitioners, so it is always troubling to think a case must be made for investing in such resources for the future of health care, year after year, or decade after decade.

THE ABILITY TO WORK SAFELY

It is the responsibility of employers to provide all health care workers with the necessary resources and protections required to practice safely. In 2019 there were well over 1000 violent incidents against healthcare workers in our hospitals. Unfortunately, New Brunswick’s nursing homes routinely see higher rates of violence than those in hospitals. This is simply unacceptable.

Every New Brunswickers deserves the right to work in a safe environment while earning a wage to live. We hope government and employers will continue their work with provincial labour unions to ensure that potentially violent incidents are mitigated via risk assessments. NBNU will continue to advocate for adequate safe staffing as well. Research has proven higher nurse-patient ratios results in lower mortality rates, shorter lengths of stay and fewer complications.

REMOVING BARRIERS

NBNU anticipates that the collaborative work environment and open communication with government, employers and labour organizations will continue well after the pandemic has passed. Let us continue to work together to improve and find innovative solutions within our health care system. It is important as we move forward in this “new normal,” for Registered Nurses and Nurse Practitioners to advocate and be leaders in health care reform and discussions. The value and knowledge they acquire from working in the system, on the frontlines, is crucial to the debate on the future of New Brunswick’s health care.

THANK YOU

I want to thank our members and wish you all a Happy National Nursing Week. Even working under some of these challenges we have outlined above, nurses continue to provide excellent care to New Brunswickers. Under the conditions of a global pandemic, there has never been more reason to celebrate the vital contribution and dedication of our profession. I have always been a proud Registered Nurse but representing you through this pandemic has given me profound pride. Please continue to take care of yourself and each other.

In closing, I ask New Brunswickers to Help us, help you, #StayHome. This message has been shared many times by RNs and NPs working through the pandemic. While you realistically will not have to stay home forever, nurses will still need your help, your investment, and support for the preservation of a profession that truly exists to help you.

Paula Doucet
NBNU President