A few days ago I had the privilege of attending the Ontario Nurses’ Association Biennial in Toronto as part of my role as a board member on the Canadian Nursing Students’ Association, as well as being a student member.
To be honest, I know many people hold opinions of whether participating in unions are a good or bad thing. However, over the past few months with the political atmosphere, i’ve come to realize a number of things that unity can improve particularly being in a female dominated profession. It’s absurd to think I can’t recall the last time members of the police force, fire fighters, and military had to go on strike. Yet, in recent years we’ve seen teacher, community and public health nurses head to the picket lines.
Being able to witness the events that had occurred since I was at the PCM in June was a rude awakening to see the lack of protections there are for nurses and the pay discrepancies between males and females within my own profession. In a climate where RNs are constantly overlooked to be staffed by RPNs and other staffing mixtures, it’s so important to have a group that has access to those critical seats at the big tables to fight for the safety of our patients. More importantly, I along with my colleagues deserve to go home safely after each and every shift and know that my wellbeing will be looked after (link below to sign a petition to Doug Ford). Instead, in recent months a number of nurses have been injured while caring for the very people they are tasked to look after, including one nurse in Sudbury who was stabbed by a patient with a screwdriver. A near miss incident which had gone unreported a few days prior and was not dealt with and instead led to another nurse getting injured. This is unacceptable.
I had the pleasure to be surrounded by so many inspirational and passionate nurses, each striving to make a difference on their ward or within their community. It’s was powerful being able to participate in my first rally, representing healthcare workers supporting their teacher brother and sisters as they fight for our education system. Importantly , I had the privilege to watch a guest speaker speak about the importance of resilience and how important it is to acknowledge that sometimes we need to turn around and take care of our own needs, particularly in a profession that demands so much of us physically, mentally, and emotionally.
I think the one thing we often fail as nurses is advocating for what we do as a profession. Oftentimes, we fail to grab those critical seats and educate the public on what it is we do. As a profession, we have so much to offer that is often overlooked, even though by nature as a group we produce the most amount of research. Research which is often not highlighted or picked up by mainstream media. Media which often showcases nurses as docile and in the background, rather than a pivotal member of the interdisciplinary healthcare team. As nurses, we are so fortunate to be able to spend as much time with our patients and their families as we do. We see so much and yet, we rarely use our collective voice. We need to change that.
We really do need to do better to combine our voices and fight our profession. We look to Alberta and see the carnage that is happening with nurse layoffs and students struggling to graduate because of lack of preceptors. It’s a scary time to live in to know, that is not a foreign event in Ontario.