April 2nd was proclaimed by the B.C. Government as Oncology Nurses Day. That evening, the Honourable Margaret McDiarmid, B.C. Minister of Health, made a surprise visit to an oncology nurses event that was held at the Vancouver Cancer Centre and joined via teleconference by nurses from 12 sites around the province. The Minister spoke from her heart – as Minister of Health and a former BCCA cancer patient – about the irreplaceable role that nurses play every day in providing patient-centred care. McDiarmid recalled how nurses brought an intelligent practicality to the daunting prospects of chemotherapy while supporting her with compassion and individualized guidance. She recalled watching how nurses interacted with all of the patients in the chemo unit – careful and thoughtful, inspiring patients with a sense of competence that shone through all they did.
“I don’t think you ever get thanked enough for what you do,” McDiarmid said. “Never forget what a profound difference you make for people at the most vulnerable times they will ever face in their lives – and not just the patients but also their families.”
And after making brief remarks, McDiarmid stayed to hear nurses talk about their practice and about their passion for oncology care. One nurse from the interior spoke about her study of the grief of family caregivers who had found themselves unable to manage the home care for their dying loved one at home until the very end. A student nurse on the brink of graduation shared her excitement about beginning her career in cancer nursing and the many mentors who had inspired her along the way. And another nurse from the north spoke of the massive challenges her team faced in establishing the first BC cancer centre in Northern B.C. Each of these nurses spoke with commitment and passion, reminding their colleagues in the B.C. Oncology Nurses Group (the B.C. branch of the Canadian Association of Nurses in Oncology) why they came to work each day and the difference they knew they could make for patients with, through and beyond cancer. The Minister remained throughout the entire evening, taking extensive notes and remaining after the program to speak with individual nurses and share her gratitude for the nursing care she herself received.
Minister McDiarmid acknowledged that her Ministry is well aware of the challenges B.C. nurses have faced in recent years in bringing the distinctive professional nursing perspective to matters of health and healthcare policy. However, she also assured the nurses present that she has been inspired by nurses across the province throughout her term as Health Minister. In every sector of the health care system, she sees nurses stepping up to the plate with the same kind of inspired intelligence she herself witnessed as a patient. Clearly she understands – as BC Cancer Agency President & CEO Max Coppes said, “Nurses Rock!”
For further information about the BC Oncology Nurses Group, please contact Johanna den Duyf, President, at firstname.lastname@example.org
ABOUT DR. SALLY THORNE
Dr. Sally Thorne, RN is a Professor at the UBC School of Nursing, where she has been a faculty member for over 25 years. A nurse researcher and educator, she draws attention to the contribution of professional nursing to the lives of persons with cancer and chronic disease. She represents nursing as a board member in the non-profit and health sectors both in British Columbia as well as nationally.