BCNU hosts an annual convention each year. This is an opportunity for members to come together and discuss the business of the union. Delegates to convention are elected at regional meetings in advance of the convention date. Each region is assigned a specific number of delegates to attend. If you are interested in attending next year, please contact your regional chair for more information about the process.
The BCNU Convention 2019 took place May 27-30 in Vancouver. Highlights from this year's event are listed below.
HOT OFF THE PRESS South Islands region delegates Irene McKinlay and Laura Martin hold their newly-printed copies of the 2019-2022 Nurses' Bargaining Association provincial collective agreements. Delegates attending Monday's education day were the first memberstoreceive the document since the contract was ratified in January.
BCNU members gathered in Vancouver a day ahead of the union's annual convention to participate in an education day focused on the recently ratified Nurses' Bargaining Association 2019-2022 provincial collective agreement. Following a formal welcome by BCNU President Christine Sorensen, members were given a comprehensive update on the current status of the NBA contract's implementation.
It was noted that implementation is an ongoing process that requires health employers to sign off on joint interpretations of specific contract articles that were negotiated to address the staffing and workload issues affecting nurses across BC.
Joint contract interpretation documents were announced, including articles
18.08 – Relieving in Higher- and Lower-Rated Position; 26.07 – Paid End-of-Shift Work; and 28.05 – Short Notice Premium, all of which were negotiated to relieve staffing pressures or compensate those nurses left bearing the cost of additional workload.
Members were pleased to learn that BCNU and health employers have come to a joint understanding regarding the implementation of article
27.04 – Overtime. Effective May 27, the maximum amount in an employee's overtime bank shall be 150 straight-time hours.
The process to implement
Appendix I.1 Memorandum of Agreement – Consecutive Shifts was also announced as being confirmed, which should lead to the reduction or elimination of six-day rotations. Employers will now provide necessary information to allow employees to create an alternate master schedule, and rotations experts have been funded to support successful implementation of the language.
Members received reports from BCNU staff directors on a range of contract-related issues under their purview. Updates were provided regarding the professional responsibility (PR) process, the state of grievance handling related to staffing, the work the union has been doing to ensure the smooth implementation of the primary and community care model, and the union's preparations for a pension plan governance review and benefit plan review.
All members in attendance were also happy to be first in line to receive their own printed copy of the complete NBA contract that is
now available online to all members.
RAISING AWARENESS Street nurse Caroline Brunt (left) is joined by BCNU director of professional practice and advocacy Heather Straight and nurse Kinnon Ross (right). Brunt helped produce the 2007 documentary Bevel Up. Parts of this groundbreaking learning resource on outreach nursing and substance use was screened during this year's education day, while Ross shared her compelling and brave personal story of substance use disorder. BCNU is helping to sponsor a relaunch of Bevel Up in a digital format to help raise awareness of the work nurses are doing in the midst of today's ongoing opioid crisis.
BCNU members attending Monday's education day turned their attention to the opioid crisis that continues to take a toll on communities across BC. They heard first hand from two nurses with direct experience in the area of substance use – one as a care giver and the other as patient.
"Nobody wakes up one morning and says I want to be a drug addict," said St. Paul's Hospital nurse Jane McCall, who addressed the more than 500 delegates in attendance. McCall is one of the nurses featured in the groundbreaking 2007 documentary
Bevel Up. The film, co-produced by the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control and the National Film Board of Canada, chronicled the experience of nurses and health-care practitioners caring for people who use controlled substances in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
Members viewed highlights of the film and learned that BCNU is helping to sponsor the relaunch of the documentary and educational tool in a digital format – a timely initiative given the magnitude of the ongoing opioid crisis that took hold in 2013.
"The thing that really clicked for me one day was that people who used controlled substances do so as a solution to problems," said McCall, who explained that when treating her clients she uses a harm reduction approach to help remove the stigma towards people who use controlled substances.
BCNU member Kinnon Ross knows what it's like to feel the stigma associated with substance-use disorder. With passion and courage, she told fellow nurses about the personal struggle she endured while overcoming her illness. She told members that the health-care system all too often traumatizes and stigmatizes people who use drugs by judging and shaming them – and this is among the reasons more users do not seek treatment.
But it does not have to be this way. "I do think that nurses have the power to turn this [situation] around and we can be leaders in this," stressed Ross.
BCNU has been a strong proponent of the harm reduction model and evidence-based treatment programs portrayed in
Bevel Up. The union was also an early proponent of Vancouver's Insite supervised consumption facility, and harm reduction and evidence-based treatment programs more broadly.
Last year BCNU called on the federal government to decriminalize the personal possession of all drugs in order to help remove the widespread stigma towards people who use them and ensure that substance use is treated as a public health issue.
The union also endorses the recommendations contained in last month's report from the Office of the Provincial Health Officer that call for the decriminalization of people who use controlled substances.
EQUITY LEADERS From left: Indigenous Leadership Circle (ILC) rep Jessica Key, Workers with Disabilities council liaison Danette Thomsen, LGBTQ caucus chair Hannah Embree, Workers with Disabilities caucus chair Kelly Woywitka, ILC council liaison Kath-Ann Terrett, Men in Nursing (MiN) group council liaison Tracey Greenberg, Mosaic of Colour (MoC) caucus council liaison Sara Mattu, LGBTQ caucus chair Tracy Quewezance, Young Nurses Netwok (YNN) chair Sarra Fedick, MiN group chair Lee Frederick, MoC caucus chair Harwinder Sandhu and Human Rights and Equity committee chair Aman Grewal.
BCNU's human rights and equity caucus chairs and council liaisons met over lunch today to share caucus issues and agendas for the year ahead. The group welcomed BCNU vice president Aman Grewal as the new chair of the union's human rights and equity committee. The assembled equity leaders spent time reviewing a convention resolution submitted by members of BCNU's Indigenous Leadership Circle.
The group also discussed ways to improve communications between the caucuses and the wider union membership, and the environmental impact of the travel currently undertaken by members when holding union meetings.
BCNU's equity caucuses work to enhance the voice and place of our members who have experienced historic and systemic discrimination and marginalization, and were established according to the principles of the Human Rights Code of BC. They recognize the need to support members who may feel less welcome and find participation more difficult by giving them a space to speak freely about issues that matter to them.
BCNU President Christine Sorensen welcomed close to 500 nursing delegates from across the province on day one of the union's annual convention, and opened by thanking nurse leaders for their continued commitment to building a future based on trust, transparency, integrity and excellence.
She also took a minute to explain why the theme of this year's convention, 'The Power to Lead,' is of particular significance to her.
"Leadership is about the wise use of power. It is about service. And there is power in giving service to others, to help people, to inspire people and motivate them to reach their fullest potential," she said. "In this role, I am often asked what it means to be the leader of the BCNU, the most powerful health-care union in BC. And I usually respond by saying I am only one and there are many leaders within the BCNU."
The BCNU President spoke of her gratitude for the support she has received from members, Council and staff over the last few years, and credited the collective efforts of leaders past and present for being responsible for an impressive history of achievements, many of which she highlighted in her address.
"There are many hard-won achievements that have significant meaning for us today. There are the headlines, like from 1951 when RNs' top monthly wage was increased to $218. In 2011, BCNU stood strong and won at the Supreme Court of Canada on safe injection sites," she said. "And then in the last few years, BCNU has negotiated expanded paternity leave, safe staffing language, and standards for psychological health and safety while securing millions of dollars in damages to compensate for the employers' failure to follow the collective agreement."
"It is because of the collective efforts of all of these great leaders that we have the potential to create the change that's needed in health-care."
Sorensen took the opportunity to inform the room about the respectful, open and honest dialogue that was front and center throughout the recent bargaining process, where a new collective agreement was negotiated, ahead of schedule. It's an agreement she described as 'innovative' and 'nurse-driven.'
"The Nurses' Bargaining Association focused on problem solving and collaboration to resolve shared workload and staffing issues and to help solve complex issues that impacted our workforce and our lives. We had a long list of concerns that needed to change and we were committed to finding solutions within the time and funding available to us," she reported.
"We challenged ourselves and the employer to be innovative and to think outside the box."
But Sorensen also recognized some of the concerns that members raised throughout the ratification process, specifically around the negotiated pension plan governance review and the benefits review process.
"Over the next year, as we gather and analyze data from the Municipal Pension Plan, Health Benefits Trust and Pacific Blue Cross, we will be reaching out to our members to find out more about what they want in their benefits and pension plans and how best to address their needs and questions," she said. "Council has voted unanimously to move the proposed vote on benefits from the 500 delegates attending Convention in 2020 to members in the Provincial Collective Agreement as a whole."
Sorensen noted that the last few years have been packed full of initiatives aimed at creating a solid foundation for the future of BCNU, whether it's bargaining a new 'nurse-driven' contract, revising the union's constitution and bylaws, or advocating for safer workplaces though the Violence. Not Part of the Job campaign.
Sorensen wrapped up her annual address by stating she is motivated and committed to move BCNU forward with an ambitious platform. She also encouraged all members to use their powerful collective voices to be bold, speak up and advocate for vulnerable patients, pressure decision makers, and challenge the status quo.
"Do not be afraid of change, for without change, progress is impossible," she said. "If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it. Let us model the way as leaders in our worksites and our communities. Never forget that you have the power to lead."
CHALLENGING THE PROCESS BCNU CEO Umar Sheikh provides members with an overview of the work the union has being doing to develop collaborative relationships with health employers while advancing nurses’ ability to provide safe patients care.
Nurse leaders attending Convention 2019 were given a report on the state of servicing and labour relations by BCNU chief executive officer Umar Sheikh.
Sheikh told members that the past year has seen the union looking to establish shared goals with a number of partners, including the Health Employers Association of BC, the many levels of government and sister health-care unions. He recalled a conversation he had with BCNU Council members earlier in the year. “They provided clear direction to myself and staff, and that was to build stakeholder relationships,” he said. “Fostering collaboration, building trust and committing to the labour relations process is key to developing relationships that yield positive outcomes.”
Sheikh said grievance file management will be of paramount importance over the next 12 months as the union meets with senior health employer representatives to resolve outstanding files. He also shared positive servicing trends with members, and noted that while staffing and discipline remain at the top of the list of concerns, filed grievances have fallen 40 percent since 2017.
He acknowledged BCNU stewards continue to help members find their voice by advancing grievances when nurses’ concerns are not resolved, and that labour relations experts are there to assist with more complex files. He also told members that more than 200 cases have been referred to the BC Healthcare Office of Arbitration for full hearings, most of which reaching successful outcomes.
After reminding members that health and safety remains a top priority for the union, Sheikh thanked the Enhanced Disability Management Program reps in attendance by acknowledging their participation in hundreds of meetings taking place around the province in any given week. He reported that WorkSafeBC advocacy work is also a priority, and noted that overexertion, slips/falls and violence are the primary cause of new claims. Sheikh said long-term disability advocates also continue to stand up for members, boasting a 97 percent success rate on members’ appeals.
Sheikh reported that the lack of shared data serves as a barrier to developing solutions. Looking forward, he announced that health-employer funding would be used to develop a mobile app what will allow nurses to collect data on time spent working short, professional responsibility form management, union leave and grievance tracking.
To close the presentation, Sheikh encouraged nurse leaders in the room to own their power, and noted that real change requires a sustained effort. “So much of the language of the new NBA contract was bargained to give nurses the power to lead,” he said. “This is a journey – as long as we can make improvements, stand together and find new courage and new approaches there is nothing stopping the BCNU.”
INSPIRED VISION Newly elected Vice President Aman Grewal addresses delegates on the first day of convention. As chair of BCNU’s Human Rights and Equity Committee, Grewal provided the more than 500 assembled nurse leaders with an overview of the major issues being addressed by the union’s equity caucuses
BCNU members welcomed newly elected Vice President Aman Grewal to the podium on the first day of convention.
“I am excited to be here before you today,” said Grewal. “I’ve only been in this role for a short period of time and I have already seen a lot of wonderful and exciting projects starting to come to fruition.” Grewal noted the work that members have done to secure nurses’ inclusion in mental injury presumption legislation under the Workers Compensation Act and congratulated delegates on this important victory.
“There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes at the union office that frontline nurses do not often get to see,” remarked Grewal.“ Staff are working side-by-side with members to assist them with their issues while overseeing the daily operation of a large provincial organization representing more than 47,000 nurses in BC.”
As chair of BCNU’s Human Rights and Equity Committee, Grewal provided delegates with an overview of the major issues being addressed by the union’s equity caucuses. This included work the Indigenous Leadership Circle is doing to encourage Indigenous youth to consider a career in nursing and the effor ts of Young Nurses Network members who are helping create a nursing culture that supports and mentors younger nurses.
“I will be working closely with all of the human rights and equity caucuses in the year ahead to help align individual caucus mandates with BCNU’s larger strategic direction,” she said.
Grewal thanked BCNU’s 16 regional lobby coordinators for their tireless activism in bring nurses’ voices to politicians and policy makers, and reported that the union is developing its strategy for lobbying candidates ahead of this year’s federal election. “Priorities include shining the light on the need for workplace violence prevention and pushing for a national pharmacare plan,” she said.
Grewal encouraged members to volunteer for BCNU at community events being held throughout the province this summer and thanked long-serving BCNU bus driver Doug Payette for his years of service ahead of his retirement.
She closed by thanking members for their support as she embarks on her leadership journey. “I am always up for a challenge and hope my fresh perspective from the frontlines will provide a new lens through which to view our issues through. I look forward to working with all of you and having the opportunity to come out to your regions and see the challenges that you face.”
ENABLING SUCCESS Leaders from BCNU and the Health Employers’ Association of BC participate in an evening of dialogue that highlighted the new collaborative approach that was taken when bargaining the latest Nurses’ Bargaining Association collective agreement.
FINANCIAL REPORT BCNU Treasurer Sharon Sponton provides delegates with an overview of the union's financial operations on day one of its provincial gathering.
BCNU Provincial Treasurer Sharon Sponton took to the podium on the first day of convention and informed delegates that the union is in a strong financial position.
"Independent auditors provided us with a clean audit opinion for the close of 2018," she reported. "We also held several large events last year that required strong financial monitoring and rigorous budgeting, but I'm pleased to report that that our operating budget remains in a surplus position."
Sponton provided delegates with an overview of the operational changes the union has made in the last year, including a new cloud-based accounting platform. "This has allowed us to streamline many financial processes track workflow and improve reporting," she said.
Sponton also noted that a new on-line member expense form system means that the submission process is now more convenient, and reimbursements can be obtained faster.
"I am always focused on searching for new education opportunities to improve our knowledge," reported Sponton, noting that funding for member education continues to be a top priority.
"It is my intent and commitment is to ensure that there are rigorous controls in place in the stewardship of your dues and that the accountabilities observed today influence the financial position of BCNU far into the future," she concluded.
All members can access audited statements via the BCNU Member Portal. Those with further questions regarding the finances of the union are encouraged to follow up with their regional chairs or with Sponton directly.
SAFETY LEADER BCNU Executive Councillor Adriane Gear gives delegates an overview of the union's health and safety initiatives.
BCNU Executive Councillor for health and safety Adriane Gear took some time on the second day of convention to highlight some recent achievements in the union’s ongoing effort to improve nurses mental and physical well-being.
She talked about the successful lobbying that has taken place on many fronts as part of the union’s violence prevention campaign, ‘Violence. Not Part of the Job,’ and thanked the many members who have stepped up to share their stories and reach out to decision makers.
“Along this journey, members have been speaking up about the violence and trauma they see on a daily basis – and we recognize that this hasn’t been easy to do,” she said. “Many members sent emails to Labour Minister Harry Bains and Premier John Horgan. We were successful in getting nurses’ included in mental injury presumption legislation because of this effort, and I thank each and every one of you for your bravery.”
Gear noted that the implementation of the Canadian Standards Association’s Standard for Psychological Healthand Safety in the Workplace is another significant achievement for BCNU. “BCNU is the first union to negotiatethe implementation of this standard,” she explained. “I believe there is significant potential for this to make a difference for the psychological health and safety of nurses.”
Gear wrapped her presentation with a look to the future and a review of the goals and strategies that lie ahead. “We are looking at a violence prevention strategy for rural and remote nurses,” she reported.
“We want to continue to partner on innovative pilot projects, build capacity within our steward teams and regional OH&S representatives, and work with our partners to try and streamline reporting on violent incidents.
“It’s also important that our members understand their responsibility to refuse unsafe work,” she said.“Each one of us has to recognize our power to lead and our power to create a safer work environment.”
INSPIRING A VISION BCNU Executive Councillor Chris Armeanu provides a report to members about his work on the union’s Pensions Committee. He told them to look out for more information on the recently negotiated pension plan governance review process.
BCNU Executive Councillor Chris Armeanu addressed delegates on Wednesday morning and spoke about his role as a union executive since being elected in 2017. Armeanu said he was humbled to serve members in his capacity as chair of the union's Pensions Committee, Seniors' Strategy Working Group and Human Rights and Equity Committee.
Armeanu said he was committed to ensuring that retired and retiring members are able to maintain a standard of living that's close to that which they enjoy in their working years. He also encouraged delegates to attend BCNU pension workshops and educational events concerning the recently negotiated pension plan governance review.
Armeanu reminded delegates that nurses have contributed up to one third of the assets in the Municipal Pension Plan but have only one vote on the plan's 16-member board of trustees. "That means nurses have no real control over our investments or future retirement benefits," he argued.
He also said MPP rules prevent nurses from accessing the Nurses' Bargaining Association Retiree Benefit Fund that would allow them to enjoy full inflation protection. The fund, which currently holds about $250 million, was set up in 2008 for this very purpose.
"Problems like this need to be fixed," he said, explaining that the NBA bargaining committee negotiated a mechanism to study the implication of a separate pension fund for nurses for this very reason.
"This agreement gives nurses important options on the future of our pension," said Armeanu. As a result of ratifying the new collective agreement, a committee has been struck to review the implications of changing the governance of nurses' pension plan.
If the analysis shows that the MPP will not need to raise contributions if nurses leave and that nurses wouldn't have to pay higher contributions as a result of creating a new nurses' pension plan, then the committee may recommend the formation of the new plan.
"If they make that recommendation, nurses will be given the choice to stay in the MPP and leave control of our retirement with others or form our own separate pension plan where we have far greater control," said Armeanu.
He also reported that educational initiatives will be coming in the year ahead to help members to access information on pensions. "We will create as many communications tools as we can to ensure members have the required information to help them with this important decision," he said.
MEMBERS VOTE Nurse leaders spent several hours on day two and three of convention conducting the business of the organization by debating and voting on resolutions and proposed amendments to the union's constitution and bylaws.
Day two and three of convention saw delegates debating resolutions and proposed bylaw amendments. Members voted in favour of two amendments that will now see the adoption of a revised Constitution and Bylaws. The proposed revision that was carried was the result of the 18-month governance renewal process that involved more than 12,000 members across the province.
Members in attendance defeated a proposed bylaw amendment to Article 13 (Collective Bargaining) that would have required BCNU to conduct all contract ratification votes through electronic voting administered by a third party, and require that vote results show the ratio of yes to no votes at each job site.
A proposed amendment to Article 15 (Conventions of the Union) that would have required BCNU regions to reserve 20 percent of their voting seats for elected delegates who had never attended convention before was deemed out of order because it conflicted with a resolution adopted previously by the Convention, namely the newly revised bylaw articles.
A proposed amendment to Article 3.01 (Officers of the Union) that would have added an executive councillor position to the union's provincial executive committee was defeated.
A proposed amendment to Article 13.02 (Collective Bargaining) that called for BCNU to negotiate the addition of a registered psychiatric nurse representative position to the Nurses' Bargaining Association negotiating committee was also defeated.
Delegates voted against a resolution calling on BCNU to create dedicated staff roles designed to improve data collection and information analysis regarding the incidence and risk of workplace injuries.
Delegates voted in favour of a resolution brought forward by members of the BCNU Indigenous Leadership Circle that calls on the union to strike a committee in collaboration with the ILC to help determine how BCNU will implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action.
Delegates voted in favour of an amended resolution calling for an independent third-party review of the roles and compensation of full-time stewards, regional executives, enhanced disability management program reps and full-time stewards-at-large. The review report will be approved by delegates at a future convention.
Delegates also voted in favour of a similar resolution calling for an independent third-party review of the roles and compensation of regional chairs/Council members, and that the review report be approved by delegates at Convention 2020.
Members continued doing the business of the union until Thursday afternoon before adjourning and returning to their home regions.
WARNING OF THE POPULIST WAVE Ontario Nurses' Association President Vicki McKenna addresses delegates on the final day of convention. She provided members with a report on nurses' fight for public services since the election of the Doug Ford Conservative government last year.
Convention 2019 delegates gave a warm welcome Ontario Nurses' Association President Vicki McKenna who addressed delegates on the final day of BCNU's provincial gathering.
McKenna opened her address by letting BCNU members know that nurse leaders across Canada regularly look to BC for inspiration. "You have a strong and amazing union and you are amazing activists," she said. "You are true leaders – people know who BCNU is and we see what you are doing."
She pointed to BC nurses' advocacy on mental health as the most recent example of leadership. "Your work on securing changes to mental injury presumption legislation is a huge win and I congratulate you all."
McKenna also provided delegates with a sobering account of the political environment in her home province following the election last year of Doug Ford's Conservative government. "We are at the beginning of a populist wave in government across this country that is in part a reflection of what is happening south of the border," she warned.
"We are also in the midst of the most massive restructuring of public services we have ever seen," reported McKenna. "We've been through lots in the past but this is different."
She reported that since the election, the Ford government has shown no interest in consulting all of the Ontarians it represents. "Our government has a duty of fair representation and they are not representing the people of Ontario," she said, noting the recent dramatic changes to health legislation that caught nurses and other health-care workers completely off guard.
McKenna talked about the perversely named
People's Health Care Act introduced last fall that she says will have devastating and far-reaching consequences for the health-care system. She said the bill dissolves a number of health agencies and reorganizes those remaining under one umbrella. The government has also worsened the turmoil in the province's long-term care sector, where thousands of residents have been moved and reorganized without consultation.
McKenna told convention delegates that the Ford government has refused to consult with health-care partners and that workers are the last to know about changes that affect them. As an example, she said nurses were told no immediate changes were planned for public health, only to find out a few weeks following a meeting with health ministry staff that the number of public health units in the province was being reduced from 35 to 10.
"This is not about improving services or increasing 'efficiencies.' It's all about money and that's not good enough for us." She said the government's moves also open the door for further privatization of Ontario's health-care system. "It's about starving our public system so that it does fail, and then the investors waiting in the wings can be called in to 'rescue' us.
"Ford says he's for the people. I'm not sure what people he's talking about, but from what I've seen and heard it's not the people of Ontario."
McKenna reported that ONA is organizing and working with community partners and the public to fight back. "We're holding town hall meetings and webinars and running social media campaigns and lobbying MPPs."
She also said the difficult political reality facing ONA members has made her proud to support them as leaders in the fight for public services and fairness for all Ontarians.
"They are strong, they are determined, they have a voice and they are experts – and I will not let them forget that!" she said.
She also acknowledged that success will only come if nurses stick together and connect through their union. "I'm inspired by what I've seen in BC. I'm glad to be welcomed here and I will be taking what I've learned back to Ontario."
SAFER WORKSITES NOW! BCNU President Christine Sorensen leads hundreds of nurses to Jack Poole Plaza in Vancouver. Union members gathered to demand properly trained safety officers at health-care worksites.
Hundreds of nurses from across BC gathered at Vancouver's Jack Poole Plaza on Thursday and called on the provincial government to provide properly trained safety officers at health-care worksites.
"What do we want? Violence prevention! When do we want it? Now!" was the chant that echoed far and wide as BC Nurses' Union members marched along the Coal Harbour waterfront with signs and megaphones in hand.
BCNU President Christine Sorensen addressed the lively gathering. "I am thrilled to be here with all of you this afternoon in this beautiful setting as we recognize the important work you do in your communities, and celebrate the accomplishments that have recently been made—all thanks to your perseverance, your positivity and your hard work!"
Sorensen congratulated nurses on scoring a major victory in April when the provincial government finally enacted changes to the Workers Compensation Act by adding nursing to the list of occupations that have the presumption of mental injury when filing for compensation for PTSD and other related conditions.
"But more needs to be done," she said. "Increased security presence at worksites is needed to keep nurses and patients safe."
Sorensen reported that BCNU has surveyed its members, and the data show that having security officers available to respond quickly and effectively makes nurses feel safer and drastically improves the safety culture of the worksite.
"Nurses are seeing positive results from a number of sites that have added high-quality security personnel," said Sorensen, who pointed the Kelowna General Hospital emergency room and Coquitlam's Forensic Psychiatric Hospital as two examples that demonstrate how the addition of extra security is making it safer for nurses and patients.
Two full-time security officers were assigned to the KGH ER in the spring of 2018 following an innovative partnership between BCNU and Interior Health, and nurses there say the safety environment in the ER has improved.
"Too many of us have experienced violence on the job," Sorensen told the group. "The slogans on the rally signs we are holding today come straight from the mouths of nurses who have shared their stories of being kicked, punched, bitten and hit. It's a sad fact that most of us know what it's like to feel attacked at work. This is unacceptable!"
Sorensen welcomed Ontario Nurses' Association President Vicky McKenna to the podium, who brought a message of solidarity and gratitude. She thanked BC nurses for the leadership role they have taken to help make violence in the health-care workplace a top-of-mind issue for politicians across Canada, and congratulated them on securing metal injury presumption for nurses who have suffered on the job. "You are a strong and amazing union and you are amazing activists!" she said.
Sorensen closed the lively event by reminding members that, on average, 26 nurses per month suffer a violent injury at work in BC. "This statistic needs to change, and the union will continue to demand that the addition of properly trained security staff in a variety of health-care facilities is implemented province-wide."
STEP UP YOUR SAFETY Keynote motivational speaker Candace Carnahan shared her personal journey from injured worker to determined advocate for occupational health and safety.
Keynote speaker Candace Carnahan took to the stage on the final day of Convention 2019 and spoke to the more than 500 nursing leaders in attendance about the importance of being aware – and saying something – when working in potentially dangerous situations.
She told the room that having the courage to care for others – by standing up for them or encouraging them to refuse work in an unsafe situation – is a truly transformational concept.
"If you see something, say something," was the message Carnahan repeated several times during her presentation.
Carnahan's passion for occupational health and safety is borne from personal experience.
She recounted how she lost her lower left leg at the age of 21 in a devastating industrial workplace accident near her home in Miramichi, New Brunswick.
During her third summer working at a local paper mill, Carnahan stepped over a conveyor belt, as she'd done many times before. But this time her foot got caught in a pinch point where the belt came together. The belt pulled her foot into the machine which kept running for a few seconds until a co-worker heard the screams and hit the emergency stop button.
Left reeling from this life-changing physical injury, Carnahan said she was later appalled to learn that the incident was totally preventable. She learned that the safety guards that had been put in place on the heavy machinery had been removed.
"Many had seen something. None had said anything," she remarked.
Carnahan said the emotional fallout from a health and safety incident can be more debilitating than the incident itself. "But pointing fingers doesn't make limbs grow back," she stated. "Blame just makes you bitter – you can choose to be bitter or choose to be better."
Not one to rest on bitter, Carnahan re-focused her efforts towards advancing health and safety standards and improving education and awareness for workers. After completing university, she began speaking to high school students before broadening her scope, speaking to employers and health authorities on the need to ramp up health and safety for all workers.
While sharing her story with members, Carnahan removed her prosthetic leg and waved it around. "People often say to me that I don't 'look' like someone with only one leg, but who really looks like someone with a fake leg?" she asked. "Nobody looks like the worker who's not coming home from work today."
Carnahan told the room that excessive workload and fatigue sets workers up for tragedy. "Choosing to power through, to work harder than we are physically able, is a mistake we all make, and when it catches up to us – injuries occur."
"In situations where we choose to press 'override' out of fear, or not trusting our instincts - the fallout can be harmless - but too many times it's not," she stressed.
"The first step in not getting hurt is simply knowing you can be," she warned. "I learned my lesson the hard way – what happened to me can happen to you."
Carnahan encouraged nurses to keep themselves safe, healthy and most of all be open and aware to the potential dangers in their workplaces – and to find one new thing to do more safely.
"Complacency is a killer – it is the enemy of safety," she argued. "And the hazards we can't see can be the most dangerous hazards of all."
Carnahan closed her presentation by asking nurses to have the courage to care for themselves and each other. "Until we receive zero injuries, there is work to be done," she said before leading convention delegates in an inspired chant that saw the entire room repeating the mantra "if you see something, say something!"
It’s That Bad: Nurses Rally For Inclusion in PTSD Legislation and Action to Prevent Violence on the Job
“Violence in health care has reached shocking levels in BC, and nurses are being threatened, punched, kicked and verbally assaulted every day.
Keynote Speaker Shares Wisdom and Laughter on Closing Day
Award-winning humourist and motivational speaker Linda Edgecombe shared her insights on life, love and career with delegates on the closing day of convention.
Seniors' Advocate Addresses BC Nurses
On Wednesday BC Seniors' Advocate Isobel Mackenzie shared her insights and recent survey findings with BC Nurses’ Union members on the state of seniors' care in the province.
Convention 2018: BC Nurses are Standing Strong
BC Nurses’ Union President Christine Sorensen delivered an opening address to more than 500 members gathered in Vancouver this week for the union’s 37th annual convention. Her message? Despite the difficulties the organization has faced – both past and present – BC’s nurses continue to stand strong in their commitment to safe patient care.
Education Day Focuses on OH&S
STANDING STRONG: Our 2017 Annual Report
This year’s convention was preceded by an education day focused on psychological health and safety. Keynote speakers included leading workplace safety expert Ron Gantt and renowned clinical forensic psychologist Dr. Joti Samra.
BCNU’s Annual Report 2017 launched today, profiling the stories of the year as told by members and including reports from the provincial executive and senior leadership.
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