Unifor salutes all nurses during National Nursing Week 2016 — recognized from May 9 to 15 in 2016 across Canada. This is an opportunity to recognize the dedication, compassion and resilience of nurses and their vital professional contribution to excellence in patient care. This is equally an opportunity to increase awareness by dispelling misconceptions about the issues and challenges facing not just nurses, but all health care workers.
Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs); also known as Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) in many provinces represent more than a quarter of all regulated nurses working in Canada with one practical nurse for every three Registered Nurses (RNs) in Canada. Between 2005 and 2014, the number of practical nurses has grown at a cumulative rate of 49% as the fastest growing category of nurse. Practical nurses are registered health professional and regulated in Ontario by the same professional college, and by similar professional regulatory colleges in other Canadian jurisdictions as regulate RNs.
Practical nurses are real, and a force for change. Practical nurses are an effective solution to the challenge of ensuring quality nursing care and a vital part of strong, integrated, multidisciplinary health care teams. Any health service organization that strives to provide quality sustainable nursing care simply needs real practical nurses!
Practical nurses simply desire to work to the optimum extent of their professional scope of practice, education and experience — whether they are working in hospitals; nursing homes or in primary care. However, practical nurses confront precarious work environments; needing to work two or more part-time jobs to earn a decent standard of living. Practical nurses also regularly face chronic short-staffing; increased patient acuity and work overload.
Practical nurses are exposed daily to workplace violence and abuse, as well as occupational infectious diseases and injuries that challenge all health care workers. In Nova Scotia, health care workplaces claimed the top three rankings with 1,671 workers injured due to violence since 2007. Across Canada, more than 4,000 reported incidents of workplace violence against Canadian nurses occurred between 2008 and 2013.
Unifor is committed to ensuring preventative strategies are the priority and actively challenges government and employers to create safer health workplaces at every opportunity for all. Practical nurses call on government to ensure our education system is serving health care workers to acquire the initial skills and competences and continuing opportunities to adapt and extend their skills throughout their working life to deliver high-quality health services in team-based approaches.
As real practical nurses are aware, mutual respect, collaboration and team-building are essential to maintain universal health coverage and to achieve the highest standards of access and quality care for all.
Practical nurses are a real and effective solution and a force for change in building a strong health system and appreciate the critical importance of federal-provincial co-operation to ensure strategic investments in the health workforce. Practical nurses are well-represented among the Unifor local and national leadership and staff of our union. In unison with their colleagues in Unifor, practical nurses are calling for stronger public health care; and negotiation of a new Health Accord by 2017. It’s time for stronger public health care.