Cultivating Connections Through Conferences

Update magazine banner - Summer /Fall 2023 - Cultivating Connections through Conferences

Members from across the province connected with each other at two BCNU-hosted conferences in November 2023.

BCNU’s annual professional practice and human rights and equity conferences took place in November 2023, providing nurses from across the province an opportunity to gather together in one space.

Over 300 nurses from across the province gathered in Vancouver in November 2023 to attend two conferences hosted by BCNU intended to support professional and personal development through collaboration, engagement and learning.

The biennial professional practice conference took place on Nov. 1 and offered an opportunity for nurses and leaders to enhance their nursing practice and hear from experts in the healthcare industry. The union also hosted its annual human rights and equity (HRE) conference on Nov. 30, which focused on exploring the power of stories and storytelling, and how stories can advance principles of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Both conferences took place at the Pan Pacific Hotel on the traditional, ancestral and unceded lands of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples, otherwise known as Vancouver.

Building a Strong Foundation at the Professional Practice Conference

This year’s profession practice conference theme, Enhancing Nursing Practice: Building a Strong Foundation, explored a wide range of issues relevant to the nursing profession today. It aimed to provide delegates with the skills and knowledge to create a supportive backdrop for their practice through teaching allyship, self-care and cultural safety and humility.

The agenda kicked off with a panel discussion on minimum nurse-patient ratios, moderated by BCNU’s Director of Professional Practice and Advocacy Mycal Barrowclough.

The panel featured President Adriane Gear and Vice President Tristan Newby, as well as Jim Gould, BCNU’s interim chief executive officer and chief negotiator, and Deborah Charrois, director of legal and labour relations. Panelists spoke to the importance of minimum nurse-to-patient ratios and the work of the union that is underway to determine safe staffing levels.

Update magazine - Summer /Fall 2023 - Practice Conference Panel
President Adriane Gear presented an gift to an Indigenous Elder as a thank you for opening the professional practice conference with a land acknowledgement and blessing.

They agreed that more work is needed for BC to become the first province in Canada to implement nurse-patient ratios (mNPRs) and pressure on government to follow through must continue.

“Holding the government accountable to the promise of minimum nurse-patient ratios is our top priority,” said Gear, to the 150 nurses in attendance. “I’m optimistic about the implementation of mNPRs in BC as work with health authorities and the Ministry of Health gets underway.”

Presentations that followed included Exploring Moral Distress, featuring somatic educators Angelica Singh and Anita Chari. They explained what some of the symptoms of moral trauma, moral injury and compassion fatigue look like – and why it’s important for nurses to practice self-care, set boundaries and support each other in times of crisis.

Both educators teach embodied and trauma-informed practices to health-care workers.

“Compassion fatigue sets in when we think that if we can just meet this person’s needs then my needs will be met,” said Chari. “As nurses, this is something you do almost automatically without thinking about the repercussions. Setting boundaries is key to managing expectations.”

The afternoon sessions included a presentation on Indigenous allyship and a panel discussion on cultural safety and humility.

Tania Dick, an Indigenous nurse and director for cultural safety, humility and clinical practice with the BC Ministry of Health’s Indigenous Health and Reconciliation Division, gave a passionate account of her experiences with racism throughout her 20-year career.

Dick shared that throughout her journey, she’s committed to ensuring no one else experiences the racism she’s had to endure.

“The chronic, systemic racism in health care is horrifying,” said Dick. “I am dedicated to making sure the Indigenous health agenda is on the table and I’m happy and proud to have been able to participate in the bargaining work with BCNU to ensure the collective agreement language is inclusive and culturally aware.”

A second panelist participant was Paula Foster, a regulatory practice consultant with the BC College of Nurses and Midwives. She provided an overview of why it is critical that patients and nurses feel culturally safe.

“We all deserve the right to culturally safe care,” she said.

The day ended with academic and consultant Len Pierre, who spoke on what allyship means in a presentation titled Walking Together: Indigenous Allyship in Action. He shared that walking together it is a journey not a destination.

Pierre encouraged attendees to act in solidarity with Indigenous peoples and not be held back by the fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. According to Pierre, building trust with those we’re seeking to support is the way people can become better allies.

All presentations provided nurses in attendance with concrete suggestions on how to integrate aspects of cultural safety, Indigenous allyship and self-care into their professional practice to continue building on their strong foundations of knowledge.

Promoting Human Rights and Equity through Restorying Our Past and Reimagining Our Future

This year’s human rights and equity conference was a one-day, in-person event that explored the power of storytelling through this year’s theme.

“[Today is] a day to consider the power of stories,” said BCNU President Adriane Gear, during the day’s opening remarks. “To remake our past, to advance the principles of justice and equity, to create and recreate a more inclusive and welcoming present and future for all of us.”

These stories, continued Gear, are ones that nurses tell colleagues, to patients at the bedside and to family and friends following a tough day at work to help cope with the realities of a challenging working environment. These stories are also what people receiving care bring with them.

Update magazine - Summer /Fall 2023 - Indigenous Opening
First Nations registered nurse and Indigenous storyteller Connie Paul performed a drum song during her presentation at the 2023 human rights and equity conference in Vancouver.

“We are shaped by the stories we hear and the stories we tell,” said Gear. “Sometimes we recall only a fragment of what was told to us, but that fragment stays with us. The wisdom it conveys, the lessons it offers us, the invitation it extends to us – to pay attention, to reflect, to live more deeply, to advocate for each other and to exist in solidarity with one another.”

Presenters included authors, storytellers, activists and artists who all spoke to the power of the narrative strings that connect our lives.

Connie Paul was the first guest speaker of the day. An Indigenous registered nurse, Paul weaves storytelling into her nursing practice whenever possible. She shared her own story with attendees and how she came to interpret the meaning of reconciliation.

“We all have our own stories as nurses,” said Paul. “We all have paths that we chose that inform how we're going to look at that person we're caring for.”

Other speakers included Annahid Dashtgard. author, speaker and CEO of a justice, equity, diversity and inclusion training and leadership company. She encouraged attendees to reflect on three elements – the context of their lives, their purpose and to discover how their own stories have shaped who they all are today.

“Knowing our story is our deepest source of power because it gives us clarity to make choices about what we say yes and what we say no to,” said Dashtgard.

Red Buffalo Nova Weipert, an Anishinaabe Ojibwe transgender and two-spirit interdisciplinary artist detailed their healing journey using the Indigenous tradition of storytelling weaving a narrative of a childhood spent feeling misunderstood in their small rural Manitoba hometown to where they are today.

Nova, also a hoop dancer, brought hoops on stage explaining the symbolism of each one by one. As they placed each hoop on their body, they explained the values each stands for; love, respect, honesty, humility, courage, truth and wisdom; and how they apply them in their life.

Comedian Martha Chaves followed, providing a light-hearted, laugh-inducing interlude that tied back to the day’s storytelling theme to round out the morning presentations. Chaves shared her life's challenges as opportunities that helped shape her into the comedian she is today.

The afternoon featured three more presentations by authors Kai Thomas, Putsata Reang and Loung Ung, all with unique and inspiring stories to share.

Ung, a Cambodian-American author, screenwriter, public speaker and activist, was the last presenter of the day. She spoke about how her own story of fleeing the Khmer Rouge in Pol Pot’s Cambodia, growing up as a refugee in Vermont, which has the highest percentage of white Americans in the US, and what it was like to carry the burden of memories of her trauma with her.

Ung shared how her three books have helped deal with her trauma and reshape the perspective on her family’s history.

“We all as people have this power to re-story our past and our narratives to create a different and better future,” said Ung.

Throughout the day, audience members shared their personal experiences, reflections and posed questions at the microphones. Presenters created safe spaces for sharing past traumas and experiences by sharing their own and encouraging audience members to embrace the emotions and feelings that emerged as a result.

The conference demonstrated the impact a story can have, and how even years down the road a narrative from the past can be rewritten for a more welcoming and inclusive future.

UPDATE (Summer/Fall 2023)

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UPDATED: February 09, 2024

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