On December 17, 2013, a small group of nurse leaders met in Vancouver to discuss the future of nursing in British Columbia, the challenges the profession is facing, and the need to have a stronger voice that represents the interests of the community of nursing.
Much of the discussion during this meeting centred on the lack of cohesiveness among nursing groups and lack of respect that many leaders within the profession have experienced. Participants all expressed concern about the impact of the dissolution of the Nursing Directorate in the Ministry of Health and about the transition of RNABC to CRNBC. These events, among others, have led to a significant decline in nursing’s voice in public health policy and in the important area of professional advocacy.
Nurse practitioner representatives spoke with great conviction about their significant disenfranchisement by the government and BC Medical Association primary care policy decision-making enclaves. They indicated that, without sweeping and swift reforms, the role of nurse practitioners in British Columbia is in jeopardy, a situation that would result in the loss of primary care providers to thousands of British Columbians and have consequential effects across the provincial and national health care systems.
Clearly the time to unite as one community of nurses is now.
By the end of the day, the group had made several key decisions:
- The collective will continue to meet, discuss and move aggressively forward to address needed changes, (welcoming additional members and participants as required.)
- Strong and swift responses will be raised to key issues that impact nurses and nursing over the next weeks and months. Participants asked themselves, “Do we continue to accept the status quo, or do we act strongly and decisively when we see the need?” The unanimous decision was to move forward with strength and determination.
- Initially there will be four primary areas of focus:
a) Strengthened constructive and professional communications on issues affecting nursing, both to the nursing community and to the public. It is no longer acceptable that the only public voice for the entire profession is the perspective of the bargaining unit.
b) An immediate communication priority will be supporting nurse practitioners, communicating the need for and strength of this vital part of our profession. This is a matter of some urgency in order to ensure that commitment to the nurse practitioner role is not lost amidst the current aggressive BCMA lobby for physician control of all primary care policy decision-making in this province.
c) Relationship building among all the nursing groups in B.C. with the goal of moving to a strong, unified voice for the profession. When these relationships have been forged, additional relationship building will occur outside of the profession.
d) Establishing a visible presence on policy and advocacy issues, including active steps to shape the venues for policy influence by nursing to ensure the profession is appropriately represented.
The group agreed that it is time to act and to push forward to make significant changes in how nursing engages with health service and policy decision-making in this province. In the short term, several members of the group have been tasked with taking on assignments – including writing short papers/briefing notes, developing campaigns, and initiating strategic conversations around the specific changes that would help us achieve our shared vision of a united nursing voice in the province.
We look forward to hearing the comments and suggestions of all nurses as we move through this process, and we are committed to sharing updates and information as it becomes available. At the same time, we believe you will see the results of our efforts as we take a stand for nurses and nursing and collaborate together to build the collective strength that the community of nursing needs.
Nursing has been marginalized for far too long in British Columbia. As nursing leaders, we are determined to turn this situation around, mobilizing resources as needed, to restore nursing to the proud, influential and highly respected profession it has always been.
ABOUT ROB CALNAN, RN
Rob Calnan is Site Manager of Cowichan District Hospital. He has served as President of RNABC (1997 – 1999), the Canadian Nurses Association (2002 – 2004) and the Association of Registered Nurses of British Columbia (2010 – 2012) and led two components of the Canadian Nurse Practitioner Initiative. He is known as a passionate and articulate spokesperson for the capacity that nurses can offer in providing health care services with Canadians and as a strong proponent of a publicly funded, not for profit health care system.