By Janet Hazelton
Across the country, nurses, health care professionals, patients and their families are taking a moment to recognize National Nursing Week – May 12-18 – and the tireless work done by our nurses. As President of the Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union, National Nursing Week presents a unique opportunity for me to celebrate the accomplishments of our members and to thank each and every one of them for the work they do.
For almost 40 years, the Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union has represented nurses in the province of Nova Scotia. Today, we represent approximately 6,700 Licensed Practical Nurses, Registered Nurses and Nurse Practitioners in Nova Scotia hospitals, long-term care facilities, adult residential centres and community nursing practices.
As a registered nurse in this province, I, along with my fellow nurses, have witnessed constant change in health care. As a result, there is more emphasis on professional development throughout our careers to ensure our skills keep pace with medical advancements. As a union, we negotiated leadership and practice premiums to enable nurses to continue their education and update their skills throughout their careers. Our patients deserve the highest quality of care, and we want our nurses prepared to provide it.
Health care professionals of many disciplines are now working side-by-side in a collaborative environment. As nurses, we respect our colleagues and the invaluable work they do, but we also recognize that patients struggle to tell us apart. Patients need to identify their nurse in order to receive appropriate and timely care, ensuring optimal health outcomes.
In 2011, we became the first nurse union in Canada to negotiate a distinctive white and black uniform policy for our members. Since then, four more provinces have followed our lead. While the uniform makes it easier for our patients and their families to identify nurses, it also gives our members an opportunity to demonstrate pride in their profession. Enhancing nurse identity with the standardized uniform was our first step towards addressing safe staffing concerns.
In November 2013, we became the first nurse union in Atlantic Canada to negotiate enhanced safe staffing language with an accountability framework to support nurses in their roles. This model has proven successful elsewhere in Canada and is a strategy to address many of the complicated issues surrounding nurse workload and patient care. Since implementation, the process has been successfully applied in a host of circumstances, including increasing nursing staff in high acuity areas, increasing support staff to ensure nurses focus solely on nursing duties, and improving orientation procedures for new hires. We are proud to be leaders in Atlantic Canada in implementing this process.
Nurses work tirelessly every day to provide the best patient care possible to you and your loved ones and we are proud to represent nurses in this province. During National Nursing Week, I encourage you to think of a nurse who has touched, or even saved your life.
Janet Hazelton, BScN, RN, MPA, is President of the Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union.