By Barb Cape, President – SEIU-West
Happy National Nursing Week!! SEIU-West is so proud of its members who work in nursing teams – this week serves as an opportunity to show our gratitude, and to also share important information around the vital work they do. To start the week, I want to begin by highlighting Licensed Practical Nurses (stay tuned for Continuing Care Assistants’ Day, later this week!)
Recently, I had a very interesting conversation with a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) who is a member of SEIU-West in Saskatoon. She was upset about the ongoing struggle between the Registered Nurses and members of SUN, and their regulatory body, the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association (SRNA). She said, “Today is a sad day for regulation in Saskatchewan”. And while we in health care pay attention to these issues, what is this really about?
Recently, the Ministry of Health approved the new set of bylaws that govern the Licensed Practical Nurse scope of practice under which LPNs can safely work. The bylaws were intended to provide role clarity as they describe quite specifically the work that is done by LPNs daily based on their competencies. As well, the LPN education program created and delivered by SASK Polytech has expanded to encompass some additional duties and practices. The new bylaws reflect these added education pieces. This process is no different from that of every other regulated profession, as they seek to remain up-to-date. For example, LPNs, Doctors, RNs, technologists, and pharmacists are all required to take continuing education credits to ensure that they remain current in their profession. It’s a great idea and even though I’m not in a regulated profession, I think lifelong learning and staying up to speed on my profession (Chef) is a brilliant idea.
But that’s part of the problem: SRNA and others are arguing that these skills are not a part of a LPNs ‘foundational’ education (aka their original course). But that’s a red herring because regulated professions add to their body of knowledge via their educational program. Additional courses and skill upgrades are regularly offered to all professions – regardless of who they are in health care. Lawyers do it. Accountants do it. And RNs do it…so why not LPNs? These courses or programs might be offered on-line, or via an employer, or through Sask Polytech… but they all must be a recognized and vetted course in order for it to count towards improving one’s skills.
There is a claim that LPNs are working outside of their scope and putting patients at risk. I have said this before and will say this again: PROVE IT! And if you know of someone working outside of their scope, contact SALPN immediately! It’s not ok once or twice; it’s not ok if no one is looking – it is not OK! But that being said, I have yet to find any evidence of LPNs putting their patients at risk by working outside of the LPN scope of practice. If the true issue is a lack of acceptance of the expanded education, skill and competencies of LPNs – that’s just goofy. There is a role for every health care profession in advancing the model of care Saskatchewan residents deserve. There is no role for professional jealousies.
As our LPN member who works in an Operating Room, she said: “…I love my job. I love going to work every day and I feel honored to help people during one of the scariest times in their lives. I took the same peri-op program as my RN counterparts and was partnered for group assignments with a RN. I was the sole LPN in a group with five RNs… we wrote the same exams, assignments and research papers. I feel strongly that my education prepared me to serve in my role. I feel strongly that the public should be able to have confidence in me when I come to walk them into the operating room. I am good at what I do.”
The public needs to know that the work of EVERYONE on the health care team is valued. From maintenance, to administration, to front-line nursing, to support services, and everything in between. There are some jobs that I can’t and shouldn’t do, because I am a cook; just as there are some duties that a LPN can’t and shouldn’t do because it’s outside of the scope of practice for a LPN. There really is a role for all members of the nursing team including the RN, the LPN and the CCA.
As we celebrate Nursing week, I ask you to remember this: everyone has skills to bring to our health care system. We cannot operate in silos; we cannot eliminate any one player on our health care team and we all know how to improve our health care system… let’s remember that this week. Let’s work together to build strong nursing teams – to do this we must stop the ongoing attacks against all members of our nursing teams, recognize and value the professional skills offered by each and create pride and respect for our diverse roles.
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