This blog is a copy of a letter addressed to union representatives in the south island area and which was copied to the Executive Director of ARNBC as well as the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia. It is reproduced here with the permission of the author.
I write as a retired nurse in Victoria and a former member of the BC Nurses Union, although the name has changed since I belonged. I write with sadness as I read about the legal proceedings being pursued by the union against its brothers and sisters in the other nursing segments of our organized profession. In my career I belonged to and supported strongly the growth of the Nurses Union in its struggle to gain the rights of nurses in all fields to bargain for fair working conditions. You might understand my viewpoint and feelings when I note that I voted in the very first strike ballot of BC nurses in the 1950’s. Further when I was a teacher at St Paul’s Hospital School of Nursing (we were in the union at that time) we teachers asked that we not receive an increase in wages so that Head Nurses could bargain for a wage equal to ours (at that time they were paid much lower than we were and yet they were every bit as important and as busy). That negotiation was successful as I recall and reflected how nursing could care for all its members without competition or playing one aspect off against another. I was a very proud union member! Over the years I have seen that inclusive mood change as nurses in many areas - not just unions - set up territorial boundaries that divided nurses against each other.
Why does this matter? Over my lifetime of 80+ years I have witnessed in many areas of society and all over the world, that a house divided ultimately and always destroys itself. I fear this is happening to nursing. These lawsuits take the competitive battle to a new level of conflict. I am sure the union has a case to make for its grievance. But have you thought of the inevitable consequences of the approach you have taken? This move by the union provides ammunition to our adversaries. Consider that when registered nurses are under threat from the increasing use of non-registered personnel, when there is government intrusion into the rights of workers (here I ask you to review the issues being faced by the teachers' union ) and the possible introduction of new non-nursing roles such as physician assistants, we are truly at risk. Our adversaries will argue that we cannot be viewed as accountable for the nursing care offered to the public because we have to resort to legal suits to get what one part of the profession wants at the expense of the other parts. To support this they will argue that as a profession we cannot manage our own internal affairs. They will argue that we ignore the professional standards we claim to meet - standards that protect the public and offer the assurance of safe care to our clients and patients. And they will argue that any group that attacks its own peers cannot be trusted to protect the public.
I cannot believe that the demise of the nursing profession in society and as we now know it, is the goal of the union. Thus I ask, indeed I beg, that you reconsider your approach to whatever problems you are facing and demonstrate the creativity and caring by which nursing has always been known and which forms the basis of trust that the public has always bestowed upon us.
ABOUT JESSIE MANTLE, RETIRED RN
Jessie is a graduate of the Royal Jubilee Hospital (1953). She retired from the position of Clinical Nurse Specialist (Gerontological nursing) in 1995.
Thank-you Jessie for this powerful reflection on the perils of a house divided, and how it is possible to reach for understanding across the divides.
It is reassuring to hear the wisdom of Nursing's elders at this time. Current issues are informed by our past.
I have always appreciated your deep understanding of nursing.
Jessie you have been a nursing hero to so many of us here in BC, and we appreciate your wise words. Thank you for speaking your truth so eloquently and passionately.
As president of the Canadian Federation of Mental Health Nurses and a long time BC Nurse, I am appalled at the information about BCNU towards ARNBC and CRNBC. When will it end? I was active with RNBAC starting in the late 1980's and there was constant conflict and it continues. As NURSES, in a community, we need to work to gether not constantly set to undermine the good work that is done by all three groups. Time to move on and look to the future. Thank you to Jessie Mantle for speaking up - where are the voices of reason.
Thank you, Jessie Mantle, for writing this powerful letter and for your willingness to share it on the ARNBC Blog. In the midst of this troubling time for our profession in BC, your words of wisdom are so welcome. We need to pay attention to our history and to value the unique organizational contexts and mandates of the BCNU, CRNBC and ARNBC. I am proud to belong to the nursing community in this province and urge all of us to work together in a spirit of unity for the sake of the public, the health system and the future of the profession.
It is hard to understand what good the BCNU thinks these lawsuits will do. In a world with so much division I was hoping that we as nurses could lead the way in modelling collaboration and cooperation. We know from our first hand experience that these divisive strategies only hurt the profession and ultimately hurt our members and those we care for.
For those who main wish is to try limit the influence and participation of nurses in health care policy and decision making, it is the perfect situation. 'Divide and Conquer' . Nurses fighting amongst themselves while others move into speak for us.
I can only hope that wiser minds will prevail and we can move on to establish a union of like minded organizations that truly has our members in mind.
Thank you Jessie for your salient comments. You have articulated what many of us have been feeling. I have previously worked in Ontario and have been fortunate to experience the rewards of having a strong professional association such as the RNAO. It is my hope that BC nurses recognize what the ARNBC can do for our professional advancement when it is not weakened by situations such as this. We require our association to advance best practice and to continue our growth as a profession.
It is my hope that BC nurses continue to speak out about this current issue.
Jessie, you have offered an experienced and thoughtful addition to the discussion on the current situation. We are living through a challenging time in nursing and you are spot-on with the view that in a divided house there are no winners for nurses and other interests are more than willing to step into place. From the details of this lawsuit, the move by BCNU to escalate to the supreme court is short sighted, and appears to be self-serving.
A very thoughtful reflection. If we want to be respected, we must act in a way that commands respect. A way where we nurture and foster each others growth and find ways for collaboration rather than litigation. As an experienced nursing organization, the BCNU has the opportunity to mentor ARNBC. I believe the BCNU once found themselves in a similar situation when the union role seperated from RNABC (also receiving $2.7 million in grant money in 1981 see http://blog.crnbc.ca/?p=354 for more info). The BCNU's knowledge and experience would be much better utilised supporting this relatively new association rather then threatening its financial ability to exist. I feel like mentorship and collaboration would be in everyone's best interest. We can only make gains when we nurture each other.
There is a petition now. Please see link:
Thank you Jessie. Your historical perspectives and remarks resonate for me in a profound way
This radical position of the BCNU in its quest to be all things to all nurses is simply unrealistic and the pursuit of it puts the legitimacy, credibility and trust of the entire profession at great risk.
Nursing as a discipline has enjoyed the benefit of exceptional public esteem and trust, bestowed upon us by the public we serve, for more than a century. Yet, we risk eroding that trust by portraying the profession as a group of adversarial factions that have lost touch with our traditions of collaboration and teamwork in the higher collective calling of public service.
As you have succinctly put it, “... any group that attacks its own peers cannot be trusted to protect the public”
Thank you Jessie,
Great insight and I did enjoy reading your views.
I often wonder why nursing has to have so many areas of conflict.
I agree with you; the way the public will view and judge nursing could be based on what public sees.
Thank you again.. 🙂