TORONTO - All this week, Canadians across the nation draw attention to nurses and the vital role they play in Canada’s health care community. The theme of this year’s Nursing Week (May 10-16), developed by the Canadian Nurses Association is titled: “We Answer The Call”.
Every year, Nursing Week coincides with International Nurses Day (May 12), the date chosen to commemorate the birth of Florence Nightingale in 1820. She was a pioneer of modern nursing and the event was established in 1974 by the International Council of Nurses. It is a day to highlight the important role nurses fulfil in the health care sector.
Health is a balance of mental, physical and social well-being. The aim of this year’s theme is to showcase the various roles that nurses play in a patient’s journey to better health and to raise awareness of issues in the nursing profession.
Covid-19 has presented many challenges throughout the community and specifically the health care sector. Nurses commit to the responsibility of providing safe, top-quality care to their patients. This is demonstrated through their dedication, compassion and professionalism.
Nurses have stepped up and answered the call throughout this health care crisis. They work tirelessly, often needing to self-isolate from their own families, with little to no reprieve while caring for patients following wave after wave of viral infections.
The pandemic exposed systemic weak points within Canada’s health care and long-term care systems, specifically in relation to capacity and staffing shortages.
According to the Canadian Nurses Association, regulated nurses in Canada reached 439,975 in 2019. This included licensed practical nurses (registered practical nurses – RPN – in Ontario), registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and psychiatric nurses. The overall growth rate of regulated nurses in 2019 was 1.9%; however, those who were employed reduced by 1.5% from the year prior.
The past 14-months of the pandemic have taken a toll on nurses across the country. In a recent Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) survey of 2,600 RPNs, conducted by OraclePoll Research, results suggest 30% of those polled are considering leaving nursing. The high-stress workload, physical/mental exhaustion and wages all factor into the added pressures nurses face.
The latest findings echo the results of similar surveys conducted in December 2020 by the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO). Even in this group, roughly one in three PRNs responded that they are considering leaving the profession.
This third wave of Covid-19 infections has not made the situation any better. With record high numbers of Covid-19 patients in hospitals and those in the ICU reaching an all-time high of 900 earlier this month, the pressure continues to build for frontline workers.
Nurses are the ones putting themselves in harm’s way and risk their own physical and mental well-being to help keep the rest of Canadians healthy and safe. This year, more than ever, there has been a rallying cry of nurses’ unions around the nation for better action from government leaders.
Vicki McKenna, President of Ontario Nurses’ Association said in a press release: “Nurses have been dealt a series of blows by this government that have prevented them from negotiating a respectful wage increase, removed their workplace protections and seen them left behind as this government has selectively recognized some, not all health-care workers for their extraordinary sacrifices”.
Furthermore, McKenna stresses that nurses have put their lives on the line during the pandemic. “Government must repeal its wage-suppression legislation, Bill 24, and step up and recognize those who have sacrificed so much”, she added.
Bill 24, passed in 2019, limits salary increases to 1% per year, for a period of three years.