May 12, 2014 was a memorable day for nursing in British Columbia. For the first time in history, a group of 20 nurses travelled to the Legislature to launch nursing week. This was a celebratory event, bringing the family of nursing together to share our stories, and demonstrating our desire to work together with government and each other in a collaborative manner.
Our group represented the whole nursing family - four licensed practical nurses (LPNs), five nurse practitioners (NPs), seven registered nurses (RNs) and four registered psychiatric nurses (RPNs).
The day began with all 20 nurses meeting at the Empress and sharing our hopes for the day. We quickly realized we had many similarities, in addition to a desire to continue to build positive relationships with one another and with government representatives over the course of the day.
Next, two roundtables discussions occurred simultaneously. A group of eight met with B.C. Minister of Health Terry Lake, Associate Deputy Ministers Lynn Stevenson and Elaine McKnight, and Acting Assistant Deputy Minister Ted Patterson. The remaining fourteen interacted with senior Ministry staff including Kevin Brown, Acting Executive Director of Health Workforce Planning, Debbie McLachlan, a Registered Nurse and Director in Health Workforce Planning and Evan Howatson, Director of Labour Relations and Negotiations. Both roundtables provided opportunities for all of the participants to raise issues that are important to nurses, the nursing community and clients. Discussion was engaging and lively, and we appreciated the opportunity to hear each other's perspectives, and that of the government, on a wide range of important topics.
Two general themes emerged. Firstly, there is a need for greater client-centred, multidisciplinary and interprofessional approaches to healthcare. Secondly, the government and nurses are both in agreement that collaboration and ongoing dialogue between the nursing family and government is welcomed and needed.
Following a meet-and-greet and photo opportunity with Minister Lake in the Legislature Rotunda, all 20 nurses spent an engaging and interactive hour with Opposition Health Critic, Judy Darcy. We discussed important issues such as Aboriginal nursing challenges, the impact of the closure of primary health care clinics on clients, struggles nurse practitioners are facing as they integrate into the healthcare system, cuts in mental health which impact registered psychiatric nurses, and the pressure staff mix models are having on both licensed practical nurses and registered nurses.
Following our meeting with Ms. Darcy, we were honoured to be invited to meet with Independent MLA Andrew Weaver. We had rich dialogue about the role of nursing in healthcare, staff mix, and the need for consultation with B.C. nurses.
Our final event of the day was to attend the afternoon session where we sat in the public gallery to hear greetings from Minister Terry Lake and Judy Darcy. This was followed by two private member statements celebrating nurses, nursing and the launch of nursing week. I felt great pride in our profession during the member statements, and felt so privileged to be present and hear the acknowledgement given to our profession.
This day was packed from start to finish. Not only did we advocate to the highest levels of government on behalf of the four nursing groups in British Columbia, we appreciated the unique opportunity to spend time with our nursing colleagues. The unity and relationships that were created were an important and meaningful part of the day and we have vowed to continue the dialogue as we work together to achieve a common goal – demonstrating that we can come together, be collaborative and speak with one voice about many important issues.
We would like to thank Minister Lake, Judy Darcy and Andrew Weaver for sharing their valuable time with us and committing to ongoing discussion and dialogue between the nursing profession and government. Thanks also to the Ministry staff – Lynn, Elaine, Ted, Kevin, Debbie and Evan, who shared their thoughts and plans, listened to our ideas, and demonstrated a willingness to work more closely together in the future. Our thanks as well to the terrific staff who work with the Minister, Judy Darcy and Andrew Weaver for your willingness to help us plan our day. We look forward to working with all of you in the future as we continue to share the expertise, knowledge and recommendations of all of nursing with government and decision-makers.
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ABOUT PAM BURTON, RN
Passionate and committed to the profession of nursing, Pam has a keen interest in how the professional voice of nursing shapes the nursing profession, health policy and health care. Pam was involved in the former Comox Valley RNABC Chapter, attending several AGMs as a voting delegate. Pam has over a decade of experience as a RNABC Workplace Representative/CRNBC Professional Support Program Rep and has 28 years of RN practice including bedside nursing in acute and residential care. She currently works as a Nurse Educator and sits on the ARNBC Board as a Director at Large.
Thank you, Pam, for sharing the highlights of this remarkable experience! This event did indeed exemplify advocacy and unity. It was a privilege to participate in our first Day at the Legislature and to witness the value in coming together as representatives of the B.C. nursing community.
I was struck by the interest expressed in our collective presence and opinions. The politicians and staff who met with us listened well, sought our perspectives on current issues and took time to learn about the organizations we represented. They communicated their interest in hearing our views on community health centres, new developments in Aboriginal health, primary care delivery, mental health, rural health care and staff mix models.
Where do we go from here? I see advantages in seeking opportunities to work on common issues as a nursing family and to continue meeting with Government. Nurses have so much to offer to public deliberations about health system improvements based on our expert knowledge and experience in all settings throughout the province. The May 12 event was enriched by the breadth and depth of practice experience brought to the discussions. Our settings and roles included direct care in acute and long term care, community mental health, nursing education, independent practice, primary health care, public health, home health, Aboriginal community health and nursing administration.
Let’s make this an annual event and, in the meantime, continue our advocacy for better health and better health care for the population of our province and the patients and communities we serve.
The collaboration, ongoing discussion and dialogue between the nursing profession and government, will surely benefit nurses, the nursing community and clients. The coming together of nurses from diverse streams for nursing week and sharing each other’s views, and appraising the Legislatures jointly about issues relevant to healthcare industry are indeed an achievement for nurses. Here the quote, ‘Alone we may be lost but together we stand tall” rightfully fits because together they can work and achieve their common goal. The Legislatures will also be bound to take steps beneficial to nurses and nursing community.