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 ) 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) ). 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 .
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
Paddy 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.
 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.
 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).