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National Nursing Week recognizes how nurses change lives for the better

B.C. Nurses’ Union cautions of challenging and even hazardous working conditions
According to the BC Nurses’ Union, 97 per cent of Vancouver Island nurses report they are working short-staffed. (Stock photo)

The theme of this year’s National Nursing Week is ‘Changing Lives, Shaping Tomorrow,’ and nurses want change for the better for patients, and also for their own well-being.

On Vancouver Island, 44 per cent of nurses are exposed to weapons at least once a month, compared to 21 per cent provincially, and 54 per cent of nurses reported experiencing physical violence, compared to 21 per cent provincially.

Those numbers are from a survey by the B.C. Nurses’ Union that collected data from March 14 to April 15, then released on May 2, ahead of National Nursing Week.

The theme of this year’s National Nursing Week acknowledges the role nurses currently play in patients’ lives, as well as their influence in shaping health-care treatments, technologies and practices for the professionals of tomorrow.

Adriane Gear, BCNU president, said while it’s important that nursing week is a celebration of nurses, it’s also an opportunity to acknowledge the challenges being faced by the front-line health-care professionals.

“Nurses are doing the very best they can at a time when we are in a serious staffing crisis where there is simply not enough of us to deliver the care that our patients require and deserve,” she said.

According to the survey, 68 per cent of Vancouver Island nurses reported being exposed to illicit substances once a month, 83 per cent experience verbal or emotional abuse, 41 per cent are seriously considering leaving the profession or have already made a plan to do so and 97 per cent reported working short-staffed compared to 85 per cent across the province.

Gear said the provincial government has been working on a minimum nurse-to-patient ratio, however, which is expected to begin implementation in the fall. She called it the No. 1 policy solution in addressing the staffing crisis.

The new standards include one nurse to four patients in adult medical and surgical unit, one nurse to three patients in palliative care, one nurse to five patients during the day in rehabilitation and one nurse to seven patients at night, one nurse to three patients in special care, one nurse to two patients in high acuity and one nurse to one patients in intensive care.

“Nursing is an amazing profession and I know once we get minimum nurse patient ratios implemented B.C. will be the best place in Canada to be a nurse,” said the union president.

READ MORE: Nurse-to-patient ratios unveiled as B.C. pumps $237M into nurse incentives

National Nursing Week started Monday, May 6, and continues through Sunday, May 12.

To mark the week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a statement on Monday thanking health-care providers. He also brought attention to the federal ‘Working Together’ plan which provides support for provincial health authorities to hire more doctors, streamlines foreign credential recognition and makes it easier for nurses to move between provinces.

“We thank Canada’s nurses for their constant care, compassion, and life-saving expertise in supporting the health and well-being of Canadians,” Trudeau said. “Nurses make Canada stronger, healthier, and more prosperous. Together, we will build a health care system that supports our nurses as much as they support us.”

Gear said those who know a nurse should simply thank them.

“In terms of what the public can do to support nurses and the system outside of nursing week, it’s to educate themselves on nurse-patient ratios,” she said. “The union is undertaking a campaign to educate the public on why this is important for them, it’s a good retention tool for nurses but ultimately we negotiated this because ratios save lives.”

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Jessica Durling

About the Author: Jessica Durling

Nanaimo News Bulletin journalist covering health, wildlife and Lantzville council.
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