Windsor nurses voice concerns at provincial nursing association meeting

Nurses in Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent got the chance to ask provincial nursing association executives questions as part of the professional association's 2020 Fall Tour, which was held virtually.

COVID-19, anti-racism and the opioid crisis among issues discussed

RNAO President Morgan Hoffarth takes questions at a 2020 RNAO Fall Tour Meeting. (Zoom)

Nurses in Windsor-Essex, Chatham-Kent, Peel, and from the Community Health Nurses Initiative Group got the chance to ask questions to executives of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) Monday as part of the professional association's 2020 Fall Tour.

RNAO president Morgan Hoffarth and CEO Doris Grinspun took questions from members in a Zoom meeting. 

Among the issues discussed were the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, racism in nursing, the opioid crisis and healthcare staffing shortages.

"What better year to have the year of the nurse!" said Hoffarth to kick off the meeting. "2020 has been a challenge, but really an opportunity for nursing to rise to the occasion."

Hoffarth began the meeting by outlining to members efforts the RNAO has made to work with the provincial government in the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the biggest issues is adequate staffing in the 'second wave' of the virus.

"We often hear that there's a shortage of nurses, this really demonstrates that there's not a shortage of nurses," Hoffarth said. "There were nurses who were willing to work extra hours who were available. The shortage is really in the funded nursing positions — not in the actual number of people."

On that note, Hoffarth said the RNAO now has just under 46,000 members.

"Which has been a huge growth in RNAO membership, RNAO members over the past couple years."

Despite that, nursing retention and recruitment is still a concern — especially with the pandemic and staffing issues. But the president said the RNAO is making adequate staffing one of its main advocacy focuses.

"We are hearing from nurses across the province that they're tired," Hoffarth said. "We know that there's a lot of fatigue happening across the healthcare system for a lot of different reasons."

"People need time off so that they can feel well and be able to participate fully in the work that they do and in their healthcare settings."

Actions to address racism in nursing

Hoffarth said the RNAO is committed to taking action to address racism in the profession, including the formation of a RNAO Black Nurses Task Force to look at anti-Black racism in nursing.

Hoffarth was asked twice about possible RNAO participation in the "defund the police" movement — a proposal she was uncertain about. 

RNAO says its heard from nurses across the province who say they are tired and need time off. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

"I don't know that RNAO is ever going to say 'take money away from another sector' — especially another public service," she said. 

Other issues discussed included the ongoing opioid crisis and the job duties of a registered nurse.

"We need to speak very clearly about what the difference is between an RN and other healthcare professionals," Hoffarth said. "So that we're able to protect the vital knowledge of our profession and the vital knowledge that we bring to the healthcare system."