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.