Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario

Interest Group of the Year: Ontario Correctional Nurses’ Interest Group (OCNIG)

Interest Group of the Year: Ontario Correctional Nurses’ Interest Group (OCNIG)

This award honours an interest group that best demonstrates commitment to the nursing profession and active participation in RNAO initiatives. The interest group effectively communicates through a variety of means, which influences decision-makers and mobilizes RNs and NPs for action. This interest group exhibits exemplary teamwork and strong leadership within the nursing and health-care community.

If you ask Ontario Correctional Nurses' Interest Group (OCNIG) president Shirley Kennedy why the group has been so successful in recent years, she will tell you it's the ongoing outreach to nursing students and media, and the collaboration with RNAO home office. Since 2015, the interest group has grown from 113 members to 579 (445 of whom are nursing students). That represents a more than twofold increase in just a few years. "I don't think we've ever turned down an invitation to a student event," Shirley says, noting they have attended career days for nursing students and spoken to students in class. Members of OCNIG have also had letters to the editor published in the Globe and Mail and Hamilton Spectator. In addition, the group has collaborated with RNAO home office to write and send action alerts to the minister of community safety and correctional services about much-needed changes in Ontario's prison system. "We've done an incredible job…sharing our concerns, our knowledge, and our expertise with correctional decision-makers," Shirley says, adding that she hopes in five years, the challenges in corrections – including segregation, overcrowding, and treatment of mental health – are history.