It’s an honour for me, every year during National Nursing Week, to thank and celebrate Canada’s nurses. Without a doubt, you are compassionate, courageous, and incredible professionals. Our work is challenging, unrelenting and certainly not for the faint of heart. You are strong, smart, highly skilled and awe-inspiring caregivers, who are the backbone of Canada’s health care system; don’t let anyone tell you any different!
But for the last two years, Nursing Week has been anything but happy. You are under unprecedented pressure from employers, governments and the public, while working to provide quality health care during a pandemic. Many of you are working directly with COVID-19 patients, in high-risk, stressful environments, while others are striving to protect vulnerable patients or residents from infection.
This is a crisis of unmatched proportions, and it is only made worse by problems that existed in the health care sector long before the virus arrived in Canada. As nurses’ unions, we’ve been sounding the alarm for years on staffing shortages, violence in the workplace, mental illness among nurses, and a lack of respect and action from governments across Canada. Too often decision-makers and political leaders ignored our daily struggles and lived experiences – but there’s no sweeping these issues under the carpet any longer.
This is a unique moment and an important opportunity. The eyes of Canadians are on nurses and health care providers, and they’ve been reminded of our immense value. While we accept their words of praise, we challenge them to turn those words into decisive and immediate action. Reverent words are hollow unless followed by meaningful actions.
Now is the time to transform our pre-existing crisis in health care and build a better system for everyone – patients, residents and health workers. Canada’s politicians need to listen and act.
As nurses, you are resilient, capable and amazing, and you deserve a health system that works just as hard as you do. We want a health care system that cares for its health workers. You are not disposable or expendable, but essential and indispensable. And if Canadians didn’t know it before, they do now.
So, this year, instead of wishing you a Happy Nursing Week, I wish you a bright future. I wish for a changed health care system where nurses are prioritised, not compromised. But just like words, wishes aren’t enough. I pledge to continue advocating to make those wishes become our new reality.
Likewise, I encourage you to add your name to our COVID-19 vaccine campaign at www.TrustNurses.ca and share the video with your friends and family. We can all be vaccine ambassadors and use our influence to protect our loved ones and communities.
With a federal election on the horizon, our next campaign will demand national action to address Canada’s health care staffing crisis. With your help, our voices will be louder than ever.
This is our chance to be catalysts for change, let’s not waste it. Now is the time, and there’s no backing down.
In unwavering solidarity,
President, Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions