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April 4, 2016

Nurses Shut Out from PTSD Legislation: Ontario Nurses' Association calls for front-line RNs to be added

Mental Health

TORONTO, April 4, 2016 – Front-line registered nurses (RNs) are outraged that the province has excluded them from coverage under Bill 163, Supporting Ontario’s First Responders Act (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, 2016), says the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA). ONA is calling for the immediate inclusion of all nurses.

“In the course of our working lives, our heroic nurses are witness to and experience a wide array of critical and traumatizing events,” notes ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna, RN. “Registered nurses are in every sense first responders. As a result, we can and many do suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Nurses have every right to be covered under this progressive bill. Nurses deserve the protection offered under this bill to other male-dominated professions. As first responders, nurses are sent into harm’s way on a regular basis. We, too deserve the protections of the law as first responders.”

McKenna says that nurses are “profoundly disappointed that the government has excluded nurses from Bill 163. This legislation is proceeding and excludes the predominantly female contingent of first responders from PTSD legislation.

ONA believes Ontario’s system should be modeled on that of Manitoba’s, which is leading the country on presumptive legislation on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and includes nurses as first responders. ONA is requesting that the government cover all nurses under Bill 163; currently, only nurses working in correctional institutions are covered.

“In every sector of health care, front-line caregivers experience violence, trauma and events that can trigger PTSD,” says McKenna. “We experience patients who are rushed into the ER after being involved in horrific car accidents, house fires or are gunshot victims, hemorrhaging or burned beyond recognition. We experience life-threatening outbreaks such as SARS, we face violent attacks by patients and their families, sexual assaults and threats, deal with patient homicides and suicides, we are exposed to toxic chemicals, cope with caring for assaulted children and other patient deaths, as well as their grieving families. Any number of events in our work lives can trigger PTSD in nurses.”

Statistics show that of the 10 occupations reporting the highest incidence of workplace violence, four are health-care related.

“Bill 163 is an excellent step forward for the male-dominated workers it covers,” says McKenna. “However, the serious and what appears to be intentional oversight of nurses in this female-dominated workforce under the legislation is unacceptable.” She notes that the First Responders Day Act, 2013 which proclaims May 1 in each year as First Responders Day, clearly includes nurses as first responders. “We are calling on the Minister of Labour to immediately correct this oversight.”


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ONA is the union representing 60,000 registered nurses and allied health professionals, as well as more than 14,000 nursing student affiliates, providing care in hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, the community, clinics and industry.


SOURCE Ontario Nurses’ Association

For further information: Ontario Nurses’ Association:
Sheree Bond, (416) 964-8833, ext. 2430; cell: (416) 986-8240;;

Melanie Levenson, (416) 964-8833, ext. 2369;