This May more than 500 BCNU members gathered in Vancouver for our union's 37th annual convention. I was inspired by the energy and passion of such a dedicated group of members. These were nurses who care deeply about the communities they serve.
The BCNU rally was a highlight of the event. Standing on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery and looking out on the assembled activists, I knew there was no question that change was in the air.
The Me Too movement against sexual harassment and assault has shown us that attitudes and behaviours that were once tolerated as a "normal" part of an organization's culture can quickly be exposed for the abuses they really enable, and the devastating effects they can have on their victims.
We are now at this turning point when it comes to workplace violence and the trauma it has caused. We have woken up to the reality that nurses have been paying a personal price that's far too high and no longer acceptable in the course of our work providing needed care for our patients. Health employers must acknowledge that the harm nurses have suffered is not just "part of the job" and act to provide working conditions that ensure workers' rights to occupational health and safety are protected.
BCNU is fully committed to ensuring that our members' workplaces are violence-free. Our violence-prevention campaign is continuing to put pressure on government and employers while raising awareness about the reality of the growing violence that nurses are facing on the job. The statistics are sobering. WorkSafeBC data collected over the last decade show that 40 percent of all injuries claimed by nurses were a direct result of violence in the workplace – a 50 percent increase. More than 85 percent of workers injured from acts of violence are female and 26 nurses a month suffer from violent injuries at work. This is completely unacceptable.
But I don't need statistics to understand the brutal reality that nurses are facing today. I recently heard from over 100 BCNU members who shared their personal experience of violence in nursing during BCNU's inquiry on violence in the health-care workplace. More than half of those who participated are no longer at the bedside due to a long-term disability.
We also know that injuries are not always visible – and the stress that nurses endure, whether as a result of their own or their patients' trauma, is all too real. The stories of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that nurses shared with us during our inquiry have revealed the extent of the problem.
Psychological health and safety is every bit as important as physical safety. That's why we negotiated the new Canadian National Standard on Psychological Health and Safety into the Nurses' Bargaining Association provincial collective agreement during the last round of negotiations. The positive factors contained in the standard – such as civility and respect – provide a framework that we can now use to better hold employers accountable for developing and maintaining positive and healthy workplace cultures.
The need for psychological health and safety is also why we are determined to ensure that nurses are included in the provincial government's recent PTSD presumption legislation that provides first responders with faster treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health diagnoses. Nurses should no longer have to fight to prove that their post-traumatic stress is work-related.
But we don't just want psychologically healthy workplaces for our members – we want them for our staff too. That means we are leading by example and committing to full implementation of the standard in all of our union offices. I have seen first-hand how damaging incivility and toxic workplace cultures can be. We are now embarking on a period of recovery.
This is my first report since being acclaimed president of this great union. It is an honour to address you in this role. Our organization has gone through a lot in the past year, and as we turn this page, I want you to know that I am fully committed to renewed leadership and a new way of being. Our members, our steward teams, our regional and provincial leadership and our staff all have the solutions. I am very proud to be standing up for safe patient care and standing strong with you all.
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