Nursing Day at the Legislature: Reflections from an RN and a Nursing Student, by Lisa Constable, RN and Jennifer Kanai

Reflections of an RN

As a Registered Nurse practicing for almost 30 years Nursing Day at the Legislature on May 13th 2015 was a personal and professional highlight of my career. I have always prided myself in being someone who steps beyond their own practice setting, diving into less familiar worlds. As a nurse interacting with patients/families for most of my career I have come face-to-face with issues associated with patient safety and satisfaction, access to services, clinical outcomes and health disparities. I have seen when and how the health care system is effective, or not, in meeting the needs of the public. So here I was spending a day in the legislature arena, eager to share my years of experience and motivated to find an opportunity to bring about change to the healthcare system itself by meeting with politicians in Victoria.

Legislature Day began with a discussion on nursing unity, followed by an open forum with Ministry of Health leadership. We then sat in the Legislature gallery for Question Period, which proved to be a thought provoking experience observing the democratic process and hearing member statements and greetings read by MLAs in celebration of Nursing. Afterwards, the five nursing associations hosted a well-attended open house for all MLAs and their leadership staff in the Legislature lounge. A frank discussion with the opposition’s health critic concluded the day.

The fifty nurse leaders present were articulate in their thoughts, clear in their intentions and passionate about the health of British Columbians. I walked away invigorated, empowered and energized to do more in the legislature arena. I felt we were heard by the MLAs who showed keen interest in what we had to say and the solutions we shared. I was proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with my nursing colleague leaders and even prouder to share this day with Jennifer Kanai who is the future of nursing and health care legislature advocacy.

Jennifer Kanai is an inspirational second year nursing student at Victoria’s Camosun College and my niece. I watched in pride as she confidently joined in and spoke to the different MLAs discussing issues and articulating her position. I believe by us sharing this day together Jennifer will have the potential to become a confident advocate; be comfortable with and have the capacity to politically influence health and health care throughout her career. I look forward to seeing her influence and change policy, laws and regulations that govern the larger health care system. Jennifer is my niece but even more importantly to all is Jennifer is the future of health care and in my eyes the future looks more than promising.

Reflections of a Nursing Student

When I first went to the Nursing Day at the Legislature, I didn’t really know what I was getting into. I knew that there were five associations of nursing that would be present. It was a bit overwhelming to be a second year nursing student at the age of 21 in a large room with all of these very successful and amazing nurses; all who were incredible friendly, knowledgeable, and encouraging.

The part that stuck with me the most from this experience was going to the legislature building and having the MLAs come into the room with the nurses and having a discussion about health in the areas that they represent. They asked the nurses what their concerns were and if they had solutions. This was so incredible to watch because these MLA members were asking the nurses for advice and for their opinions; they recognized that nurses have a huge role in health care and are on the front line. By the end of the night I realized how amazing it was to have all five of the nursing associations working together and giving a strong voice to nurses. I understand that this is something that has just recently started, but it was so exciting to see this nursing coalition advocate for the health of the public.

As a student I found this to be an amazing and empowering experience. It made me more proud of my decision to go into nursing, and it may have sparked an interest for further down the road. It was great to see this other side of nursing in action, and the combination of politics and nursing together. I was very surprised that there were not more students there. I think that this is an experience that other students would benefit from; these nurses at the legislature day were working for change for the future of nursing and health care, and we students are the future of nursing. It really emphasized the impact that nurses have.

I went to the Nursing Day at the Legislature with my aunt. I am so thankful that she extended the invitation to me and encouraged me to come along with her. My aunt has had such an amazing influence, and has been an incredible role model for me. It was great to see her involved in all of these discussions and to hear her thoughts on the future of nursing.

Lisa, Jennifer and ARNBC President Julie Fraser speak with an MLA


Nursing Day at the Legislature occurs each year during nursing week, and is an opportunity for the all members of the nursing family – licensed practical nurses, nurse practitioners, registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses – to connect and network with one another, meet with MLAs and experience the B.C. political system in action. Our thanks to Lisa and Jennifer for sharing their reflections on this day – we hope others will share their reflections in the comments section and we look forward to an even bigger and better event next year.

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Patrick Chiu

Well said Lisa and Jennifer!
The day at the legislature was truly historic, and a day of celebrating nursing unity within the province of BC. Not only was it powerful to witness the passion of nursing leaders from different professional associations and domains of practice, it was a testament to how the collaboration and engagement of nurses can positively influence public and social policy. As a registered nurse of 3 years and a MPH student, not only did the day provide me with a fresh perspective on the level of influence nurses have on policy, it also provided me with an experience on what it was like to move beyond simply writing and analyzing policy recommendations on paper, and the partnerships and collaborations needed to make it happen. Often times, novice nurses become so focused on just the clinical aspect of nursing and forget that they have the potential to advocate and become leaders that create healthy public policy. I would love to see more opportunities like this become available not just for nurses currently holding leadership positions, but for nursing students and novice nurses as well. Opportunities like these are invaluable. Not only will this continue to inspire and empower accomplished nursing professionals, it will do so with a new generation of nurses, and create a nursing workforce full of leaders who are ready and eager to advocate for the profession and health of British Columbians. All the more reason to continue the amazing work taking place within the ARNBC - thank you ARNBC for this great opportunity!

Lori Campbell

Thank you both so much for sharing your experiences! It's great to hear how the day went and your thoughts!

Jennifer - I agree so so much that more students and young nurses would benefit from seeing that in action! When I was in my BSN program I heard about nursing associations (RNAO actually, because I was in Ontario!) but never got to see that advocacy in action. Then when I started my practice some of that role was missing for me, and it contributed to sadness that I felt that nursing wasn't raising their voices together for info sharing and asking for positive change! Modeling this for young and new nurses is vital for them, us, the profession, and all of our patients!

Also as so many of the MLAs and even the Ministers who have health in their portfolios don't have health (especially nursing!!) as their background or know intimately the day to day - it's imperative that we have a way to share those experiences, give thoughtful solutions and ideas, and "help them help us"!

Thank you for sharing and for representing nurses in making sure our voices are heard!