Nurses say government's health-human-resources shopping list is a mixed bag of goods
The only shining light in today’s announcement is the creation of nurse endoscopists and surgical first assists. “We are pleased that the government recognizes the unique abilities of RNs to expand their clinical practice and provide better access for patients who require endoscopic and surgical procedures,” says Mary Ferguson-Paré, the newly installed president of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO). “Nurses already make an enormous contribution to reducing wait times before, during and after surgeries. Providing more funding so more nurses can perform these important roles takes that contribution one step further,” she adds.
“These measures will help keep more nurses in our health-care system and will hopefully act as a magnet for those considering a career in nursing. If there are more opportunities for nurses, then more people will enter the profession or continue working,” says Linda Haslam-Stroud, president of the Ontario Nurses’ Association.
However, nurses are deeply concerned about the government’s plan to recruit health-care professionals from abroad. “Although we welcome nurses who make Canada their home and we recognize their right to immigrate, we’re very concerned about government policy that will poach health-care professionals from other countries. This will result in a domino effect with increasing international recruitment and nursing shortages in countries that can least afford them,” adds Haslam-Stroud.
“This is a negative signal for nurses here at home,” emphasizes Doris Grinspun, RNAO executive director. “It is a signal that the McGuinty government has become distracted with quick fixes to the nursing shortage and is not addressing the serious shortcomings Ontario nurses are facing. The focus must be on home-made solutions rather than looking at luring nurses from other countries,” adds Grinspun.
Grinspun says that RNAO has urged the McGuinty government to move swiftly with ensuring full-time employment for all present nurses and newly graduated nurses who wish to work full time, and the 80/20 solution for nurses 55 and over (an initiative in which they spend 80 per cent of their time on patient care and 20 per cent mentoring new graduates or working on special projects). These measures will allow full utilization of Ontario’s new grads – most of whom spend up to two years looking for full-time employment. They will also convince senior nurses to remain in the profession, sharing their knowledge and expertise and providing them with a sense of feeling valued.
Nurses are also alarmed with today’s announcement of a new group of health-care workers called physician assistants.
“First and foremost, we are concerned about continuity of care and patient’s safety. There is already considerable confusion among the public regarding the many health care workers who already provide care. The introduction of yet another category will only add to this confusion and impose additional costs to our system,” says Ferguson-Paré.
“There is a lot we don’t know about how this new role will function, how it will be regulated and what protection exists for patients if they have a complaint about the level of care they receive,” adds Ferguson-Paré.
The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses wherever they practise in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has lobbied for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.
The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) is the union that represents 52,000 registered nurses and allied health professionals working in hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, community agencies and industry throughout Ontario.