A Call to Cease Hostilities, by Paddy Rodney, RN

I love nursing. I loved it from the minute my feet ‘hit the ground’ as a nursing student 42 years ago and through all my clinical practice, teaching and research ever since. As I am sure is the case for most nurses reading this blog, my experiences caring for individuals, families and communities have taught me fundamental truths about what it means to be human, and I have treasured the nursing colleagues (including students) whom I have learned from and with.

I am fortunate to have had the privilege to witness and participate in constructive political action in nursing. I became one of the first BCNU stewards in 1981 when the labour relations division of the Registered Nurses Association of BC (RNABC [1]) broke away and formed an independent union (https://www.bcnu.org/about-bcnu/history-mission-vision). And in 2009 I joined a group of nurses that led to the formation of the Association of Registered Nurses of BC (ARNBC) (http://www.arnbc.ca/about-us/about-us.php). I became involved in the BCNU and the ARNBC because, like so many other nurses, I am passionate about the well-being of individual nurses, of our profession as a whole, and of the public we serve. I believe that in our economically constrained era, it is crucial that the foundational pillars of a regulatory college, a professional union, and a professional association stand together to support nursing practice [2].

However, I don’t love the political conflicts that erupt from time to time in nursing—especially right now in BC. The September 2013 lawsuit by the BCNU against ARNBC and CRNBC, alleges that CRNBC should not have provided a $1.5 million grant to ARNBC to support start-up costs. These start-up funds were intended to enable ARNBC to take over association-related duties that CRNBC was no longer able to fulfill, and to enable ARNBC to act as the member-driven professional association which nurses identified was missing in the Province. (Read CRNBC: Information about BCNU lawsuit against CRNBC and ARNBC)

The more recent action stems from the Association’s Extraordinary Meeting in February, which was held to update ARNBC’s bylaws and rectify some inconsistencies that occurred when ARNBC, as a fledgling organization, was non-compliant with the Societies Act (the Association chose to utilize electronic voting for Board Members in order to provide opportunities to vote to B.C. nurses from all parts of the province, despite the fact that our bylaws indicated a vote by ‘show of hands’ was required). This latest legal action actually seeks to declare almost everything ARNBC has done “null and void”, replace the board of directors, and cancel our May 28th AGM. Both legal actions seem like an overly strong response to an organization (and its individuals) that are working hard to build an Association that supports nursing and patients.

These attacks on the ARNBC right now risk all three pillars supporting nursing in BC. The association could lose its fiscal and administrative stability, the regulatory college could find itself without an arms length body to take up advocacy work, and the union could find itself losing a great deal of capital—dollars spent on legal onslaughts and respect lost from nurses, the public, and other unions.

So, in closing, I am requesting that these legal hostilities cease. None of our three organizations is perfect, but we need to build better communication and collaboration strategies, not try to destroy each other. Nursing needs and deserves better.

ABOUT PADDY RODNEY, RN

paddyPaddy Rodney, RN, is a nurse educator with a speciality in ethics. Paddy is currently an Associate Professor at the UBC School of Nursing and is affiliated with the UBC Centre for Applied Ethics, Providence Health Care Ethics Services, and the Canadian Bioethics Society. Over the last 25 years, she has lectured and consulted on nursing ethics for nursing associations and unions.

 

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[1] The RNABC became the College of Registered Nurses of BC (CRNBC) in 2005 after the BC government brought in the Health Professions Act, which called for the separation of regulatory (public protection) from association (advocacy) functions.

[2] Duncan, S., Rodney, P.A., & Thorne, S. (2014). Forging a strong nursing future: Insights from the Canadian context. Journal of Research in Nursing, 19 (7-8), 621-633. See also International Council of Nurses (2014). Pillars and programmes. Available at: http://www.icn.ch/pillarsprograms/pillars-and-programmes/ (accessed 30 May 2014).

34 thoughts on “A Call to Cease Hostilities, by Paddy Rodney, RN

  1. Anonymous

    Sorry, but I cannot and will not support the ARNBC. I would actually like to have the option of opting out of participating in the association. I do not support being forced to pay fees for an organization that has lacked transparency and has pushed its agenda without adequately consulting nurses. I have spoken to many colleagues who question the validity of ARNBC and there is a general mistrust of both the “association” and CRNBC. Maybe if there had been forthright conversation and inclusion of all nurses in this decision the outcome would be different. At this point, I am tired of the fighting, the division and complete lack of professionalism from all three pillars of nursing

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  2. Cheryl Delbridge

    I am saddened to see RN’s not following the information provided to us by our professional bodies. I have received all the information that CRNBC and ARNBC have emailed to the registered members. I believe both professional bodies have a very necessary role for nurses and hope the union stops the legal action before the damage it creates cannot be repaired. The basic premise is if the union destroys the professional bodies nurses will loose professional status and become???????

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  3. R. Alan Wood, RN, BScN, MScN

    Thank you Paddy for helping to lead this call. As always, your comments are well articulated, informative and passionate.

    The BCNU’s attempt to dismantle the current iteration of the association arm (ARNBC) – formed as a direct response of nurses (I was one of hundreds) to the transition from the former RNABC mandate to the substantially narrower CRNBC mandate – is consistent with the union’s ‘unofficial’ vision of being all things to all nurses. This move is akin to a step backward 35 years toward the inherently problematic pre-1981 organizational structure (see http://blog.crnbc.ca/?p=354). The BCNU is a vital organization in their mission of being “…a champion for improved work life, health and economic status … ” for nurses (see https://www.bcnu.org/about-bcnu/history-mission-vision). Yet, it appears that the union has lost sight of this mission in favour of ‘loftier’ goals.

    In the July 2010 issue of BCNU Update, Debra McPherson wrote: “We do not believe another organization is required as BCNU has been carrying out the professional advocacy role for some time, and has involved itself successfully in nursing education, research, policy and administration.” Although, many of the past and present RNABC/CRNBC and ARNBC board members have also been active past BCNU board members and leaders, and are joined by thousands of other BC nurses in staunchly opposing the BCNU view conveyed by Ms. McPherson, the current union leadership shows no wavering in their short-sighted and opportunistic tactics.

    Since 2005, the political and policy voice of professional nursing in BC has lost substantial ground. I fully support the structural separation of the CRNBC regulatory mandate – that of protecting the public by ensuring safe nursing practice through the regulation of nurses in the public interest. However, the statutory exclusion of professional advocacy and practice support activities from that mandate has dramatically changed the organizational landscape of nursing, leaving a crippling void in professional practice support. Following the sudden shutdown by government (with no notice or consultation) of the Provincial Chief Nurse Executive Office in 2008, followed by the quiet but not so subtle, unilateral dismantling of the BC Nursing Directorate within the Ministry of Health, the voice of BC nurses slipped away from the position we (including the BCNU) had fought hard to gain as full participants at provincial and federal health policy tables. In July 2009, I read with profound sadness and dread, former CRNBC Executive Director, Registrar and CEO, Laurel Brunke’s final message in the last issue of Nursing BC (July 2009, p. 38) after more than 40 years of publication.

    The BCNU believes the solution to this situation is to expand its role of ‘champion for improved work life, health and economic status’ to one that goes drastically further, far beyond the realm of labour relations and collective bargaining. I cannot say loudly enough how much I adamantly disagree! It is a blatant, reckless and opportunistic move to increase its political power at the expense of its nursing partner organizations and their memberships. Moreover, in the most fundamental way, it is a clear conflict of interest. For BCNU to be the only nursing voice in BC regarding labour relation and collective bargaining as well as influencing and steering nursing research and higher education priorities, advocating and advising on professional practice issues, providing nursing practice expertise and advice to employers and the public, supporting nursing and non-nursing managers, directors and educators – while at the same time, managing workplace grievances on behalf of front-line nurses who report to those individuals – and to see no conflict of interest in any of these activities portrays an organization that has lost sight of its purpose and is possibly blinded by its quest for power.

    In any such scenario, every nurse in BC would have to be a BCNU member in order to access these benefits, services and supports. Any groups of dissenting nurses who felt their needs for practice support were not being met and/or did not want to be union members, would be punished harshly by an organization with such power over the profession. Furthermore, not only does the BCNU lack the capacity, credibility and trust to be a non-adversarial partner and collaborator with the provincial government, they would be the only conduit into the national professional practice discourse. Such a radical positioning is simply unrealistic and the pursuit of it puts the legitimacy, credibility and trust of the entire profession at great risk.

    As a long-time BCNU member and supporter, I am appalled to see the union dues of members being spent on legal actions and infighting with my professional regulatory college and association while at the same time, the CRNBC and the ARNBC have no choice but to spend my registration and association fees to defend the legal actions against them – legitimate or otherwise. This means that BC nurses are in effect, being forced without choice to pay for their own prosecution and their own defence at the same time. So what will the total cost to BC nurses amount to after we finish sifting through the rubble from this battle? This does not sound anything like what I would expect for accountability from my duly elected professional leaders who are supposed to be representing my interests.

    We need BCNU in its critical role of doing what it so skillfully does best – focus on labour relations, collective bargaining and working conditions for nurses. To overly dilute that focus with what may be seen by the BCNU as other higher priorities will do a disservice to nurses and the nursing profession. The union has been a prominent leader within the larger labour movement and has immeasurable skills, talents, expertise and experience to use share in that regard.

    We equally need the ARNBC to focus on its critical role of being the professional voice for nursing leadership, policy, and practice. Similarly, I would not support ARNBC moving to dilute its focus with matters related to collective bargaining or taking on a role of mentoring union stewards.

    The CRNBC’s regulatory mandate is as clear cut as ever, leaving little question as to where its jurisdictional boundaries lay. In that regard, I believe the BCNU legal action to be frivolous, misguided and irresponsible.

    This pattern of behaviour by the BCNU begs the questions, “who will be next?” Will the BCNU use the same tactics when the CLPNBC and the CRPNBC find themselves in the same statutory predicament? Is this a ‘shot across the bow’ to deter those organizations from resisting compliance with BCNU demands? What about the role of the LPNABC? Will that organization also be swallowed up? This is indeed a dangerous path to drag the profession down.

    I fervently join you in this call for the BCNU to immediately cease hostilities.

    Alan Wood

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  4. Janie Venis

    Nurses model strong communication and collaboration skills. We are mandated to do so and the public expects this of us. We see how communication breakdowns impact our patients negatively. This lawsuit represents a major breakdown in communication and is destructive to our profession and all recipients of health care. It is an useless waste of our profession’s dollars that could be used to promote our profession and it’s members in absolutely more positive ways.

    BCNU is giving it’s members and the nursing profession as a whole “no choice”, which is ironically what it is fighting against. BCNU, drop the lawsuit, drop the threats.

    And would all our professional organizations including CRNBC, ARNBC and BCNU please model and encourage mature and productive communication and come to a consensus!

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  5. Deborah Hamilton

    Having been a RN in Ontario which has a College, an Association, and a Union (which was not mandatory to join), I have seen regulating, professional and contractual bodies only work to enrich nursing as a whole.

    I am not a lawyer, nor do I know anything about the Law. However, I have received a grant in my academic life and I know that there are certain criteria I had to meet in order to get the grant and spend it. It is rather unfortunate that the benefactor did not ensure the ARNBC followed the conditions of the grant, and it is unfortunate that the ARNBC unknowingly erred in keeping the conditions. 1.5 million dollars is a lot of money, but the costs of pursuing a refund seem much greater and will bear down hard on the membership from all angles. We will all lose in the end. I feel this law suit is wasteful, unfair and a big waste of time. Cut the losses and move on.

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  6. Eileen Maloney-White

    Thought provoking and interesting comments. Our profession has the “distinction” (and not a good one), of “Eating it’s young”. This lawsuit makes us look like all out cannibals.

    We have a responsibility to ourselves as professionals, let’s be seen as such. I implore you to take the time to educate yourself about your own profession.

    In order to practice we need a regulatory body. An association empowers us in other ways. The union mandate is to support it’s members. Bear in mind that not all nurses belong to a union. As such, BCNU cannot represent those voices.
    I want my voice to be heard, and I am not in support of this lawsuit.

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  7. Tanya Sanders

    Thank you Paddy for your words of reflection and call to action. As so many have stated, we need three functional, strong organizations to support our work as Registered Nurses and to continue to develop our profession, and our contributions to the health and health care system for our families, patients/client and communities.

    Collaboration rather than litigation is needed. Lawsuits and court petitions create a divisive angst and environment that is the opposite of what we need. There are so many opportunities and important work for the college, the union and the professional association to do together and with support of one another. I look forward to the time when we can do this and use the power we have as Registered Nurses in BC. It will take us time to re-build our relationships, to collaborate and trust and it needs to start with conversations not lawsuits.

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  8. Pam Burton

    Paddy, thank you for your blog. Previous to being an ARNBC board member, I had the privilege of being a BCNU steward and a RNABC/CRNBC workplace rep. I believe we need to work together for the profession and healthcare of British Columbians.

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  9. Julia Baratto

    If the BCNU succeeds in unravelling the ARNBC, who will represent the BC Nurses at the Canadian Nurses Association? That was a significant and troublesome void left when CRNBC withdrew from the CNA.

    ARNBC has many valuable roles, in my opinion, and these have only been growing. If nothing else, the role the ARNBC plays in regards to our representation at CNA is vitally important to our profession and can only be filled by a professional association.

    It is through ARNBC that the BC Nursing voice is heard accross our very large nation. If that is being threatened, we need to all speak up and try to stop it.

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  10. Lorelei Faulkner-Gibson

    Dear all
    I have recently received multiple posts from colleagues across the country who are upset by these events and are tired of the ongoing bullying and splitting by nurses and nursing organizations. Its time it stopped and worked TOGETHER for success. The evidence is clear, collaboration and communication are key. Thank you Paddy and Julie for your heartfelt efforts to keep Nursing and Nursing Practice at the forefront of what we do as Nurses.

    Lorelei Faulkner, RN

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  11. Debra

    The three sisters of nursing are essential to the ongoing evolution of professional practice. The CRNBC sets standards and regulates nursing practice for the protection of the public. The ARNBC ( and its sister CNA)provides a professional body for association that can influence high level health decisions and educate all and for those involved in workplaces governed by collective agreements, the BCNU stands for the workers rights and responsibilities. I have been Union exempt for 15 years of a 35 year career and have benefited from the work of these 3 sisters, who represent independent arms of our family… And must remain independent of one another…
    I urge all Nurses, find your voice and let it be heard in asking the BCNU to step down from this expensive and destructive overreach of their responsibilities…..and let the the work of our nursing family continue in good faith and in trust !!! AND
    Divided we will be easy prey

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  12. Yurina Ichikawa

    Paddy, thank you for this posting. I have enjoyed your classes the past couple of years, especially around the topics of ethics. As a new graduate and just entering the profession of nursing, I find this situation alarming and discouraging. I hope that the three organizations can collaborate and come up with a solution together rather than antagonizing each other, especially in times of economic hardship. In the end, we all have a common goal: the wellness and safety of nurses and patients.

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  13. Jeanette W

    For an organization that makes such strong statements about bullying, it’s ironic that they are the biggest bully in nursing.

    They seek to intimidate, harass, demean and ostracize those who don’t go along with them.

    I, like many BC nurses am AFRAID of the BCNU and what they will do to me if I speak out against them.

    It’s pretty clear which organization is the problem.

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  14. Melissa Lee

    I am in agreement that hostilities do need to end- each party has a responsibility to act in a professional manner. It was extremely unfortunately that during this time at the special AGM for ARNBC – they felt the need to higher a security company for their professional meeting thus setting a tone to their own meeting and preparing for a confrontation. Did they forget that we are all professionals and are accountable for our demeanor. I was witness to our own members of ARNBC and some directors scoffing and snarling in an unprofessional manor, at a professional meeting no less. The fact of the matter is this- there are nurses that are not protected or advocated for because they do not belong to a nursing union. This does not mean that nurses that do have a union – don’t have a right in who they want representing their professional voice and advocating for not only our profession but for our patients of BC. This is about the right to choose. We do have common goals but this is not a one sided decision as ARNBC is making this out to be. I am a member not by choice to ARNBC and I would have liked the option and information to choose. The government of BC and CRNBC with ARNBC made this decision without actually asking all the nurses in BC which is greater than 40000+ RNs- my question is why weren’t we asked by CRNBC and the government what we wanted?

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    1. Susan a Concerned RN

      Dear Melissa

      I was on the convention floor when our President announced to the whole group that she was considering sending buses filled with her followers to the ARNBC meeting with an intention to disrupt.

      I don’t blame them for preparing for that type of crowd control issue.

      I am sure that threats, when made, are taken seriously and so in that light, we cannot then blame people for taking them seriously. You do understand this, I am sure.

      Let’s agree to work together. Our profession is at stake here.

      Susan

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    2. Susan a Concerned RN

      I am so ashamed.

      Honestly, why won’t BCNU leadership stop this?
      Why can’t we show the world we can get along?

      When BCNU happily took the 2.8 million in start up fees in 1981, NO ONE sued. People supported each other.

      I am ashamed. Shame on us. Shame.

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      1. Melissa Lee

        I have taken sometime to reflect on the above conversations and to review the materials from all organizations. I believe Susan you are misinformed – when BCNU left the RNABC labour division it was in the middle of the night with boxes and files in hand – who then setup office in a room the next day without any exchange of money. However, I am interested in where this 2.8 million came from that you speak of. To be absolutely clear I have intregrity and values that I hold dear – I say what I mean and I mean what I say. I am wiling to put my name out there because I am not afraid to speak my truth; it is unfortunate that some do not feel the same way. I want to be absolutely clear of my position – I want a choice in who represents my professional practice. At present ARNBC has said they would also like to be the voice of nursing; I will hold you accountable not only to me but accountable to the citizens of BC who deserve the best care that nurses have been taught to give. This week is nurses’ week and celebrating us a profession. I would challenge ARNBC to hold its own leadership and active members to really look at what policies and new tools that you have devised in your workplaces as a tool to ‘improve’ care. Do they really considered the continuity of care and relationship building with families and patients? Fraser health has implemented a tool in community that does not look at continuity of care for nursing but rather looks at a task. Citizens of BC are not tasks and as nurses we have been taught to take a holistic approach. If you want to be my voice then you could have asked me what I thought of that. most importantly, the leaders (educators,nurse managers) would not implement pratice changes that would constrain my colleagues (direct patient care aka front line nurses) ability to meet their standards of practice. I do look forward to hearing how situations like this can be resolved through collaboration.

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        1. Susan a Concerned RN

          1981 RNABC passes bylaws that support the Labour Relations Division separating from RNABC and forming the British Columbia Nurses Union (BCNU). It is recognized that continuing to house all three functions (advocate, regulator and labour negotiator) is a conflict of interest for the organization. In its formation, BCNU receives the assets of RNABC’s former Labour Relations Division, including its money (approximately $2.7 million in revenues/year) and people. RNABC retains its roles as regulator and advocate for the profession, and BCNU becomes the recognized labour union for nurses. Read more» — see page 13 of the pdf or visit the history of RNABC’s role in labour relations»

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        2. Paddy Rodney

          Melissa, thanks for your comment on May 13th, and for continuing this conversation. I fully agree that the support of direct patient care (front line) nurses is a crucial issue in BC, across Canada, and internationally (see, for example, the Mid Staffordshire Report in the UK: http://www.midstaffspublicinquiry.com/)

          This is going to be a topic at our ARNBC Leadership Forum on May 28th in Vancouver (see http://www.arnbc.ca/agm/leadership-forum.php)

          I hope that as nurses in BC we can tackle just these kinds of questions together….

          Best wishes from Paddy

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  15. Rain Nickerson

    The first thought that I, and I would bet good money the vast majority of nurses in BC had, was: Who the heck is ARNBC? We already have CRNBC, and no one even knows what they really do, except take our money each March. I say, all sides need to stop wasting time and money, and start focusing on what nurses in this province are concerned about: Safe staffing levels and safe workplaces. End of story. It is, after all, our money that is being used to fuel these debates.

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    1. Wendy Bowles NP

      Rain, with respect please take the time to learn a bit more about the CRNBC and what they do. Nurses provide complex and intimate care for many people that sometimes can put both nurses and those they care for in challenge and even conflicting positions. Not understanding the mandates of those organizations we work with everyday puts everyone at risk, especially those who are uninformed.
      The union, the association AND the college represent the three supportive legs that hold nursing up, heads high. Be informed, be valued.

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      1. Rain Nickerson

        Agreed, however I do think that it is a huge concern if 100% of the nurses I was working with the other day when the open letter came out did not know what ARNBC does. The majority of nurses are exhausted after working and have other aspects of their lives that they would like to concentrate on when hey are not at work. Attempting to understand regulatory jargon is not necessarily the first thing on their to-do list. I see one of the things ARNBC wants to do is have a greater media presence to instruct the public about RNs and NPs, but perhaps they should start by liaising with the people who are paying their wages.

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        1. Paddy Rodney

          Rain (and all others who have commented thus far), MANY thanks for contributing to this important discussion. I fully agree that too many nurses are exhausted at the end of their work day, which, I believe, is one of the key reasons that the BCNU, CRNBC and ARNBC need to be able to pull together to support nursing practice for those ‘on the front lines’.

          I also agree that the ARNBC needs to increase its visibility for all members. This is something we have been working on since we held our first AGM in May 2010 (http://www.arnbc.ca/about-us/our-background.php). We started our evolution by consulting with diverse concerned nurses across the province, and have been continuing to broaden our consultation and engagement reach through our Network Leads program (http://www.arnbc.ca/networks/network-leads/index.php)

          As an association we grew out of a ‘grass roots’ response to nurse’s concerns about their ability to provide quality patient care. It has been our goal to have our voice complement the work that the BCNU does, especially in terms of influencing government (see, for example, http://www.arnbc.ca/blog/its-time-to-talk-about-cdmr-by-paddy-rodney-rn-and-andrea-burton/)

          With best wishes from Paddy Rodney

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          1. Anonymous

            From reading through previous posts on other subjects it seems to me that the purpose of the ARNBC is to support hospital management instead of nurses…for example mandatory flu shots for all nurses, despite the lack of empirical data that it is effective, not to mention the human rights issue (if you think it’s ok for a nurse to wear a mask for 12 hours why don’t you try it sometime….you will have skin breakdown behind your ears by the time your shift is over). I think most bedside nurses care very little for the crnbc and ARNBC because they are out of touch with the realities of our job. What do these organizations do for real nurses? Charge us money for the privilege of calling ourself an RN. And give us more paperwork to fill out in the form of self assessments, oh and criminal records checks, because everyone knows that nurses are wont to go on crime sprees once they’ve recovered from their night shifts.
            I don’t expect to get much support for this comment because in general the real nurses can’t even be bothered to visit this website because they’re too busy working.

          2. Paddy Rodney

            To Anonymous, who posted on May 5th at 4:21 pm:

            I want to thank you for posting. It’s important that we also hear from nurses who don’t want to support the ARNBC–we have work to do in our nursing family….

            Best wishes from Paddy

  16. Laurie Dokis

    Thank you Paddy for this posting. I have been thinking about this situation for the past 24 hours since the letter was emailed to each of us. The first thing that came to mind for me was the words that Lori shared – united we stand, divided we fall. I can only hope that BCNU rethinks their position. it does nothing to support individual nurses or our profession as a whole. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts – we can be truly a powerhouse as a profession if the three organizations unite, direct our heart, minds and resources to the same end – patient safety.

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  17. Shanyn Simcoe

    My thoughts exactly! I have no time for the infighting. All three organizations are serving me and I have been so grateful for the formation of ARNBC. I am disappointed that BCNU has taken these step. It is dividing, not uniting.

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  18. Lori Hughes

    Thank you Paddy.

    I am now left to wonder what this is all really about, as it seems to me the forest is obscured by the tree,
    Debra, in her role as a nursing leader over many years, must know that united we stand, divided we fall.

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  19. Patricia Foster

    Bravo Paddy – well said! I am so tired of the BCNU antagonistic approach to bringing nurses voices forward. The waste of resources ( money, time, emotional capital) and the lost opportunities for collaboration are outrageous.

    These internal battles do not improve patient care and the quality of nurses work life.

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  20. Lori Campbell

    Thank you for your sober words Paddy. I hope that we can all move forward and past this together.

    Reply

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