Nurses seek long-term solutions

Sueann Musick
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PICTOU – After 36 years in nursing, Maria Langille said she is pleased with her union’s plan to improve patient safety. 

As a licensed practical nurse, Langille is a member of the Nova Scotia Nurses Union that finalized its own collective agreement in January 2014 and adopted a clinical capacity report strategy opening up the lines of communication while dealing with issues in a timely manner.  

“It is respectful to everyone and gives the nurses the respect they deserve,” she said, noting views expressed during the interview were her own personal thoughts and not necessarily those of the NSNU.

Langille said the clinical capacity report allows the nurse to file a report with a manager if she or he feels an issue needs to be addressed on her unit.  

After so many reports are filed, the issue is dealt with in a timely manner, she said. The process looks at the bigger picture by tracking trends on a unit rather than offering quick Band-Aid solutions.

Langille said issues could be anything from problems with equipment to staffing numbers. The manager must address the nurses’ concerns in a written report within a short period of time and if the nurse is not satisfied with the answer then the matter is moved to discussion between the management and the union.

Again, if the nurse who filed the report is not satisfied, the CEO is asked to look at the issue and if this answer is not satisfactory then it is brought before an advisory committee that is familiar with nursing, but not directly involved with the unit that has the concerns.

The committee’s recommendation is brought back to the CEO and hopefully approved in a timely manner, she said.

“I see it working,” she said. “Today, I had a meeting with management and the union and we had a really good discussion. It allows us to say, ‘we have this problem, how can we fix it?’ I felt good after today and sitting down and talking.”

She said she is impressed by the fact that the nurse who filed the report is the person who deals with getting the issue resolved.

“If I filed the report, then I get the response,” she said. “Everything goes back to the nurse.”

Langille said clinical capacity reports are used by nurses across the country, including Ontario, and the NSNU tweaked the process a bit to make it work in Nova Scotia.

The NSNU represents about 6,500 nurses in the province that include RNs, LPNs and nurse practitioners. The Nova Scotia Government Union, which was striking Thursday over patient/nurses ratios, represents about 2,400 nurses in Capital Health District in the Halifax area.

Langille said management is supportive of its nursing staff at the Sutherland Harris Memorial Hospital’s restorative care unit and has called in extra staff in the past if a day is particularly busy.

This is often a greatly appreciated quick solution, she said, but the clinical capacity report looks at a long-term fix by digging deeper into the issue and involving everyone in the discussions.

“It’s not a blanket approach,” she said, adding that demand on nursing staff can vary from day to day and sometimes one patient requires more attention than the accumulation of all the other patients on the unit.

She said there was a learning curve with the new process, but she is pleased to see that it is being used.

Langille said there has been a bit of trickle-down effect from the nurses’ strike Thursday in the Capital Health District because some patients that might have stayed a little longer in the Halifax area are back in Pictou County.

However, she added, they are not patients that wouldn’t have normally returned home or back to the restorative care unit after their stay in the Capital Health District.

Nursing has changed considerably over the years, she added, but it’s for the better as education opportunities are more readily available to staff and communication with management, through such things as the clinical capacity report, is improving the workplace.

“There have been big changes in the past 15 years, but there have been positive changes for all Nova Scotians,” she said.

Organizations: Nova Scotia Nurses Union, Nova Scotia Government Union, Sutherland Harris Memorial Hospital

Geographic location: Capital Health District, Halifax, Ontario Nova Scotia Pictou County

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