Nursing Week 2019: We Deserve to be Heard

Publish date: Monday, May 06, 2019

MNU members

Nursing week

Put Patients First

The following editorial was submitted to the Winnipeg Free Press by MNU President Darlene Jackson to commemorate National Nursing Week 2019.

As a nurse with 37 years’ experience, I can tell you that nursing is not ‘a day at the spa’.

It’s important to understand the vital roles nurses perform in our health care system. Anything can happen, any shift. Nurses have to be prepared for all scenarios, and ready to respond quickly and effectively.

We are highly-qualified professionals, requiring years of education and on-the-job training. We learn from one another, and we work together to serve others. We ensure safe, quality care on the front-lines of our health care system. We often take on the role of advocates for our patients as well.

Every year, we celebrate Nurses Week across Canada. It is a valuable reminder of the work we do in every province and territory, from the busiest city centres to the most rural and remote areas.

No matter where we are or the circumstances we face, nurses of all designations are well equipped to meet almost any challenge. Unfortunately, issues beyond our control are making the situation in health care increasingly difficult to manage.

That’s why Nurses Week is particularly important this year in Manitoba. Many nurses are working short-staffed, and increasingly mandated to work excessive overtime. Too often, we are subjected to verbal and physical violence, in care settings with inadequate or lacking security presence.

Ongoing cuts and closures to health care, including the closure of emergency departments and the Misericordia Urgent Care Centre, are creating real issues on the front-lines. Nurses are increasingly being asked to provide care to a greater number of patients, with fewer resources. This situation is unsustainable.

Nurses have real experience, and intimately understand our health care system. We know its strengths and weaknesses and have the expertise to respond to them.

We have all heard stories of a patient going without care longer than they should. It’s incredibly frustrating for patients and nurses alike. Nurses pride themselves on compassion for their patients.

A day in the life of a nurse is often an overlapping set of priorities. It’s the feeling of being pulled in a hundred different directions while still being required to provide a consistent, high-quality standard of care. It’s a conflict that requires expertise, experience and commitment to manage on a daily basis.

Often, nurses are short-staffed relative to the patient volume they were assigned, and still have to deal with emergencies at any given time. Any number of things can go wrong at any time, and without adequate staffing levels, the risk for longer wait times only increases.

Unfortunately, our concerns are all too often ignored when our experience and knowledge should be appreciated and respected.

Nursing is one the most diverse and rewarding careers in health care. There are so many different ways to help patients and their families.  Nurses are increasingly confronting problems caused by cuts or restructuring that jeopardize care, and this is concerning. Nurses worry about the future of health care in our province.

All nurses deserve to be celebrated for performing such a critical role in our health care system. Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), Registered Nurses (RNs), Registered Psychiatric Nurses (RPNs) and Nurse Practitioners (NPs) serve Manitoba patients directly in our homes, communities, clinics, hospitals, and long-term care facilities. Without every designation, our health care system would not be complete. We are often the critical link between each member of the broader health care team, and together we ensure patients get the care they deserve.

But nursing week this year should be about more than simply celebrating the work of nurses. Now more than ever, nurses deserve to be heard; their concerns should be listened to. Nurses are there for patients at the time of greatest need. Patients put their trust in us, and we always do whatever we can to deliver the care they deserve.

Nurse advocacy is always rooted in the needs of patients, and so it’s important for our leaders and the public to take note when nurses speak out about what’s happening in our health care system.

I’d like to thank all of Manitoba’s nurses for their incredible dedication to quality patient care and advocacy. The work you do is an inspiration, and it’s an incredible honour to work on your behalf. Thank you to everyone for recognizing Nursing Week, and to all of Manitoba’s nurses for putting patients first!

Darlene Jackson is a Registered Nurse and President of the Manitoba Nurses Union, representing over 12,000 nurses of all designations.

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