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Why We Need ARNBC: The Comox Valley Experience, By Betty Tate, Trish Sanvido and Jessie Shannon

We are saddened by the legal action BCNU has taken against ARNBC and CRNBC and have been reading with interest the comments nurses are making. We hear some nurses asking why we need three organizations to represent nursing and in particular why we need the ARNBC. The ARNBC was the impetus for us to develop a community of dedicated and passionate practicing, retired and student nurses in the Comox Valley and continues to support us to advocate for the health care needs of members of our community. We would like to share our development and actions as an example of why we need ARNBC working in collaboration with BCNU and CRNBC in B.C.

In the fall of 2012, a group of 4th year nursing students at North Island College, as part of their leadership practice, researched the mandates of CRNBC, BCNU and ARNBC, understood the difference between their three roles and decided the Comox Valley needed a local ARNBC network to enhance the professional voice of nurses locally. The students distributed information, visited nurses in practice, talked with nurses who had been engaged in the Comox Valley RNABC Chapter and in Dec 2012 the first meeting of the Comox Valley Network of the ARNBC was held. Nurses who attended the meeting were very enthusiastic about having a forum to discuss local nursing issues and to move forward with action on some of the health issues in our community.

Since then our network has grown to over 100 retired, practicing and student nurses and we have:

  • Provided a valuable forum for nurses across multiple contexts of nursing practice to relationship build, support one another, find their professional voice and address issues
  • Engaged in the development of a new hospital being built in our community to increase the nursing and nursing education voice in the design
  • Engaged with the CEO on the plans for re-development of the existing hospital in our community and what services will be provided there
  • Connected with the Division of Family Practice on their primary heath initiatives in the community
  • Advocated for a renewed Federal-Provincial Health Accord
  • Engaged with Canadian Nurses Association to be informed about and participate in national nursing initiatives
  • Attended a Day at the Legislature organized by ARNBC where we met with the Minister of Health, Opposition Health Critics (both NDP and Green Party) and Ministry of Health staff to advocate for nurses and nurses voice at provincial policy tables.
  • Formed a Political Action Committee to address homelessness in the Comox Valley and to promote primary health care. To date we have been very successful with a campaign to vote yes on a referendum to support a tax to reduce homelessness in our community, lobbying local politicians to move forward with a housing project and begin a process to develop a regional service to address homelessness.

None of these activities would be possible without the ongoing Board, staff and financial support from the provincial ARNBC. For example, ARNBC has assisted us to be politically active by working with us in two workshops where we learned to define an issue, develop a campaign around the issue, write and present a brief to politicians and engage other members of the community in our advocacy. ARNBC has assisted us to connect with other nurses provincially and nationally. We have formed a bond between retired nurses, practicing nurses and student nurses in our community and we continue to reach out to more and more local nurses. We are respected in the community as a voice for nurses and feel empowered to continue to speak up for our rights and the rights of our community.

In our view neither BCNU nor CRNBC could or would have provided us with the support we needed to develop and grow – it simply is not within either of their mandates. We feel that ARNBC has filled the void that came about when CRNBC became a regulatory college and we lost local chapters and a professional association. As much as we respect and value the work of BCNU we know they did not fill this void in the years after local RNABC Chapters ceased nor can they speak for all nurses in B.C. as the ARNBC does.

We ask that BCNU stop the legal action with ARNBC and CRNBC and allow all three organizations to flourish and support nurses in B.C. to raise their voices in unison to positively impact nursing, health and health care across our province.


CVThe Comox Valley Network was formed in 2012 by a group of students who recognized the need to enhance the professional voice of nurses locally.  The group has continued to grow and has become a strong political and policy voice for health and nursing policy in the Comox Valley.  For more information contact comoxvalleyarnbcnetwork@gmail.com




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Heather Mass

Well done all! Your story reminds me again why the Comox Valley was chosen as the community within which to locate the Nursing Centre Demonstration Project. The intent of this project was to show community members and political leaders what nurses working in partnership with the community could do to promote health, and in turn, help to shape health and practice policy. The Comox Valley nurses then, as now, embraced an opportunity to showcase the profession and to help others to understand what nurses could do. That RNABC project, which I was privileged to be part of, was done with the support and collaboration of BCNU and then President Ivory Warner. Twenty + years later the Comox Valley Nursing Centre is still going strong, but sadly the days of constructive collaboration between BCNU and the Association is not. We nurses must join our colleagues in the Comox Valley and tell those at BCNU who seem to see the role of ARNBC as a threat to their power instead of the recreation of another valuable partner to stop this "zero sum power game" and instead work together to focus addressing the issues facing our profession and the health issues of those we serve.

Kathryn Seely

I love this story - it illustrates how a "small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has" (Margaret Mead). These thoughtful, committed nurses are trying to end homelessness in their community and got a good head start with this a campaign to vote yes on a referendum to support a tax to reduce homelessness in their community. Well done! At ARNBC we are here to support you. Please email us at admin@www.nnpbc.com if you wish to support and/or connect. Best regards, Kathryn

Martha Russell

Well said, Jess, Trish, and Betty. Thank you for so clearly describing how the ARNBC serves a unique role in the nursing profession in BC. I have been a member of the Comox Valley ARNBC group since its inception and have been amazed at how the ARNBC has provided a dynamic framework for advancing the concerns of nurses locally, provincially, and nationally. As a former BCNU member, I appreciate the important work done by the union in representing nurses in the acute care setting. This work is invaluable in protecting the safety of both patients and healthcare providers. However, as a nurse working in an academic environment, I do not believe the BCNU can speak for all nurses in the province. I urge the BCNU to withdraw their legal action and to work with the CRNBC and ARNBC to resolve the issues resulting from the formation of this fledgling organziation. There is nothing to be gained from expending resources and generating ill will between our groups. All three organziations must collaborate so that the profession can do what it is meant to do: promote and advocate for the well-being of the residents of BC.

R. Alan Wood, RN, BScN, MScN

Thank you all for this well presented and compelling story. As a proud member of both the RNABC and the BCNU in 1994, I was immensely excited to hear of the Comox Valley Nursing Centre (CVNC) Demonstration Pilot project – the first of its kind in Canada (see Nursing BC, November/December 1994, pp. 12-15). You and all the other CVNC nurses, past and present, have made, and continue to make substantial contributions to shaping the scope of nursing practice in BC, Canada and elsewhere. Quickly proving to be a raving success in delivering safe, competent and effective community-based nursing care, any public or political skepticism that may have been present quickly faded as broad community support grew.

The BCNU was a strong supporter of this project. It is truly sad to see that over the past several years, the BCNU has been repositioning itself in a way that undermines, weakens and effectively withdraws that support. The BCNU is attempting the impossible – to be all things to all nurses.

We need BCNU to continue in its critical role of doing what it so skillfully does – focus on labour relations, collective bargaining and working conditions for nurses. To overly dilute that focus with what may be seen by the BCNU as other higher priorities will do a disservice to nurses and the nursing profession. The union has been a prominent leader within the larger labour movement and has immeasurable skills, talents, expertise and experience to use and share in that regard. BC nurses whether current members or not, are fortunate indeed to have the BCNU as a union and professional partner.

We equally need the ARNBC to focus on its critical role of being the professional voice for nursing leadership, policy, and practice. Similarly, I would not support ARNBC moving to dilute its focus with matters related to collective bargaining or taking on a role of mentoring union stewards.

The CRNBC’s regulatory mandate is now as clear cut as ever, leaving little question around where its jurisdictional boundaries lay. In that regard, I’m sorry to say that I believe the BCNU legal actions are frivolous, misguided and irresponsible.

I join the nurses and supporters of the Comox Valley Nursing Centre, Paddy Rodney, Jessie Mantle and countless other nursing colleagues in the call for BCNU to immediately cease hostilities and legal actions with ARNBC and CRNBC.

Alan Wood

Geoff Taylor

Wow, the battle lines having being brewing for the 35 years I have been proud to call myself a nurse. The conflict represents the ongoing determination of governments at all levels to divide the working class and rule from their throne. As the president of a society, the one aspect of that society is that it is voluntary. To demand that individuals fund organizations regardless of their intent or value leads individuals to revolt against that organization. We need only look south of the border and we see the dysfunctional response from those who are over taxed and over burdened by the need to pay for all those who have an agenda. I support the work and will remain a supporter of the association however, not all nurses see the value or the need to support the association and the requirement to fund it against their wishes. I would like to see all parties come to a amenable solution however, history will repeat itself as the leadership of all organizations becomes entrenched to their ideas and values and the membership will continue to fund their zeal to win.


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