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We the nurses... by Wendy Bowles NP

Recently I met a young nursing student and was asked to give her one piece of salient information with regards to becoming a nurse.

Nursing is a profession, though occasionally it does not feel like it. We obtain a specialized body of knowledge, we make a commitment to the provision of that knowledge, we promise to uphold what that specialized body of knowledge requires of us without causing harm to others and we accept all the associated responsibilities. But somehow the reality of a profession often gets lost along the way. When I look around today, I see a change and I struggle to figure out how that change can be positive and what parts we need to address. There is no question that nursing is changing, as everything it is only a reflection of the times. Historically nursing has grown out of modest beginnings, once "caring" meant something entirely less holistic. But nursing has grown to encompass great responsibilities and great benefits. We need to ensure we accept both.

Recognition of nursing as a profession of caring and intelligent individuals has definitely become the current view of nursing by the public and compensation has also grown reflective of the responsibilities and knowledge that nurses have obtained. The future of nursing is fairly certain in terms of need; however, the look of it and how it will be compensated are less certain.  As fiscal restraint escalates, and by no means under estimate the finite limit of dollars to health care in the coming decades, and needs grow, our ability to ensure nursing continues to evolve and be recognized as a true profession will be challenged.

As a group, were nursing ever to get truly organized, we would be a force with which to be reckoned. In decades past nursing has had its occasions to rise up and demand better work environments, better wages, better recognition, and better control to ensure better care. It is time to rise up again. Previously it has been the union that has pulled nursing into a more recognized state through wages and working conditions, but I challenge that it is not the union now that will help us make then next leap forward. Without denying the role of the union I look afar to other strategies that will better meet the needs of nursing for the future. We need to focus on our profession, how are we seen as a profession, and how we demand that recognition. Personally, I believe the next big push needs to be the recognition and evolution of our association. It is the one group that will truly recognize nurses as nurses and help others to do so also. Both the union and the CRNBC have important roles to play, but only an association will support the evolution of nursing as a profession. Without it nursing is in danger of being broken into the professional and the technical. Were that to happen only a small number of nurses would continue to be recognized, work as and be compensated as professionals, the remainder would become the technicians and be compensated and recognized as such. This is a fate I do not want to see recognized.

So what did I say to that young nurse that day?? While so many salient things went through my head about providing good and honest care and being true to herself and not compromising, those were not what I said. I told her to get involved right away with the her local association in BC and start promoting nursing so that it will always continue to grow with new and energetic blood.


Wendy Bowles, MN NP F CCN(c) has been a nurse since 1991 and has worked primarily in acute care with a focus on vascular diseases and wound care. She has ventured into community at times including a northern exposure. She has also had opportunities to teach and program plan in a variety of settings including high acuity, wound care, and nursing programs. These experiences provided her with a multifaceted view of health care and nursing, and because of this she decided to solidify her advanced practice by becoming a Nurse Practitioner. Today her practice is still in acute and focuses on cardiac surgery. An NP in cardiac, she is involved in wound care, is co-editor of the BCNPA newsletter, a new editor for the BC Lymphedema Society newsletter, is a consultant and is involved with the Canadian Society for Vascular Nurses and the Venous Diseases Foundation. Wendy’s latest goal is to become more involved with her nursing organizations including becoming an active part of the ARNBC. She is also running for an At Large board position with the CRNBC to promote the profession of nursing (elections are in June 2012 ).


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Thank you so much for posting this. I couldn't agree with you more. I attended one of the sessions this week, and I was amazed at how many nurses share my concern around the lack of respect nurses face - not only from the public and government who seem to have no idea what we do, but honestly, the lack of respect we have for our own profession and our own colleagues. And yet we're not doing anything about it.

The meeting I attended was one of the first times I've really felt like I could TALK about nursing issues. I LOVED the chance to just get together with nurses and talk about some of the burning issus we face.

How have we let it come to this? Good on ARNBC for trying to fix what has clearly broken down.


I graduated twenty years ago and these are the same issues Registered Nurses were grappling and asking themselves. Is Nursing a profession ? Is there a distinct body of knowlege that defines the philosophy and practice of nurses ?

I've returned back to univeristy and as a MN:NP student today, I am disheartened because these very issues have not been solved.

I am not sure if nursing is a profession ? what do nurses - other than the nursing process - do that cannot be done by another profession ?


In my facility, the LPNs are doing almost the exact same job as the RNs. It's very demoralizing for us. We are asked to take on more, and to supervise the practice of others when we have had no real training or support, not to mention compensation for doing it.

I really hope that the Association can help to make nurses proud of who we are again.

And maybe the Association can point out that there are some problems with CDMR, which is being forced on us by the Health Authority and is jeopardizing patient safety in a big way.

John, as an NP student, do you feel there is hope for the NP profession in BC? I had considered going that route myself, but honestly, there seem to be few jobs for NPs. Do you worry that you won't be able to find work when you're finished? I wish we were able to really use our Nps. We were so excited when the profession was introduced in BC, but its frustrating to not be able to access them properly. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this.



Hi Sheila et al,

In my opinion, I believe there will be a place for Nurse Practitioners in British Columbia and in other Canadian jurisdictions. Whether it is sustainable is another question.

NP's are an emerging profession, and although legislation provides a broad scope of practice, funding, protection of practice from other professions, and politics are part of the landscape that needs to be managed.

Without sounding naive, I am optimistic that when I graduate, I will have the opportunity to contribute to the health and quality of life of BC citizens. However, the reality of current data points to an increase of Family doctors, lack of NP funded roles, in adequacy of funding models, lack of engagement by the current government to optimize the current NP's that are looking for work.

Unfortunately, I may have to pack my bags and look to other jurisdictions like Ontario and or Sask that are accelerating their commitment to integrate and optmize the NP's into their health care system.

Its interesting when we try to define and defend universal health care. It's not so universal after all; especially from an access to primary care perspective.


Easy to understand why nurses are so often demoralized given the complex conditions you’ve all been describing. However, just as we don’t give up on our patients, important not to let that discouragement make us give up on our profession. We do face very real challenges. But I think we also need to remember that there are so many instances of wonderful, courageous, optimistic and effective nurses out there. Often we just need to be around one to shift our gears, recharge our batteries, and regain our sense of what we can accomplish individually and together. Nursing is unfortunately notorious for a predilection for “awfulizing” and “catastrophizing.” If we somehow normalize those attitudes, they can become seriously self-fulfilling. But individually, every nurse who bounces back, refuses to accept pessimism, sees a light at the end of a tunnel, or finds ways to rediscover the magic is offering something restorative for the rest of us. We have been too long in BC without an association to take on that challenge of helping us feel that pride and optimism we rely on to keep us going through tough times. But we can rebuild that – one nurse at a time – if we accept our individual and collective professional responsibility to try. Thanks to all the wonderful nurses who take the time to express their perspectives on these really difficult issues as we all try to find our way toward optimism together!


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