TORONTO, April 18, 2007 – In the run up to a provincial election, Ontario’s nurses will hear from representatives of all three provincial parties, including Premier Dalton McGuinty, Health Minister George Smitherman and PC Leader John Tory, during the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario’s (RNAO) 82nd Annual General Meeting.
“Over the last year, RNs have accomplished a great deal by standing together and making our voices heard,” says RNAO President Mary Ferguson-Paré. “In an election year, there is an even greater need to continue to speak out for social policies that affect our health-care system and those we care for.”
Ferguson-Paré says the theme of this year’s annual meeting, Celebrating Nurses’ Voices, reflects the fact that the Ontario government has heard the concerns of nurses and has worked with the profession to improve the work lives of nurses and health-care for all Ontarians. Among the accomplishments: the government’s announcement of a nurse-practitioner led clinic in Sudbury and guaranteed full-time employment for new nursing graduates to keep them working in Ontario. But, she adds, more must be done to make sure 70 per cent of RNs are working full time, and to keep older nurses in the profession. The association says one way to do that is to offer nurses over age 55 the chance to spend 20 per cent of their paid time on non-clinical activities such as professional development and mentoring new RNs.
RNAO executive director Doris Grinspun says the annual meeting’s theme highlights the influence nurses can have to create such policies.
“All RNs bring a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience to our association,” she says. “Through their work, each of our 26,000 members sees the impact policies have on people’s lives. And each of those members gives us tremendous power when we speak out for nursing, health care and social issues. Collectively, our voice cannot be ignored.”
The meeting will also provide the chance for nurses to celebrate the unique perspective each of them brings to the profession. Embracing Cultural Diversity in Health Care: Developing Cultural Competence is the latest of six RNAO healthy work environments best practice guidelines that examine topics that can create better workplaces for nurses.
The guideline encompasses a range of factors that make everyone unique, from religion and ethnicity to sexual orientation and age. The document will help nurses create workplaces that understand diversity and accept, seek and embrace the differences diversity brings.
The AGM opens tomorrow evening, April 19, and continues through to Friday, April 20 at the Hilton Suites Toronto/Markham Conference Centre, 8500 Warden Ave. in Markham, Ontario. Highlights of the 82nd AGM include speeches from provincial politicians as well as Michele Landsberg and former Chief Medical Officer of Health Sheela Basrur. Landsberg, Basrur and former United Nations Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis will receive honourary memberships from RNAO. Other events include:
Thursday, April 19, 7 p.m. – 8:15 p.m.:
Opening ceremonies featuring remarks by Hon. George Smitherman, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care; John Tory, Leader of the Official Opposition; and NDP MPP for Hamilton-East, Andrea Horwath. Smitherman, Tory and Horwath will speak at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, April 20, 8:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.:
Premier Dalton McGuinty will be speaking from 2:00p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Michele Landsberg, Stephen Lewis and Sheela Basrur will receive their awards at 2:30 p.m. Landsberg and Basrur will speak.
For more information, visit www.RNAO.org 
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.