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A new decade brings new challenges for nurses

When we think back to 2020, we’ll remember the nurses who helped keep us safe.

When the clock struck twelve on January 1st, 2020, I was looking forward to kicking off a new year and a new decade. I was extremely proud of the progress we’d made over the past number of years to raise the profile and showcase the important contributions RPNs make to our health system.

Our association had just marked an important milestone with the evolution of our identity from RPNAO to WeRPN, reflecting our renewed commitment to professionalism and collaboration. And the World Health Organization had designated 2020 as the “Year of the Nurse and the Midwife”— a special recognition to celebrate the widespread impact that nurses and midwives have on the lives of those in their care.

Fast forward a few months, and now we’re faced with a world that has changed in ways I’m sure none of us could have imagined. Leaders across the globe are struggling to contain the impact of COVID-19, restricting movements, and putting in place emergency measures to shutter large parts of society in an effort to flatten the curve and protect the health and safety of the public. It’s a world we haven’t seen before — an unpredictable and frankly scary time for everyone, but especially for nurses and other health care providers.

Back in 2003, I was a frontline nurse during SARS, so I understand the professional challenges that nurses across the province are facing in delivering care under these conditions. I also understand the personal toll that it takes on you when you’re faced with constant worry about your patients’ wellbeing, as well as your and your family’s safety.

During SARS, healthcare workers literally put themselves between the public and the outbreak. For some nurses the sacrifice was terrible. Many became sick, infected their families and two of our precious Ontario nurses died. I don’t think it would be overstating things to say that this province was saved by the sacrifices of those nurses and their families. And once again we see the unwavering courage of nurses as they step up to protect Ontarians as best they can during COVID-19.

In times like this, we need to support one another. I want all the nurses who are out there at the bedside, delivering care in this critical time, to know that we’re on your side. As your professional association, our job is to advocate on your behalf and make sure you have the support and resources you need to deliver care safely and effectively. We have been doing that and will continue to do more to make sure your concerns are heard by key decision-makers. I imagine we will have a long road ahead before we return to any sense of normalcy, and RPNs can depend on us to be there with them throughout the journey. We are making it a priority to keep our members informed with daily updates. If you’re not already receiving our daily communications, be sure to sign up.

While they couldn’t have predicted it, as it turns out, the World Health Organization timed the Year of the Nurse designation quite well. Now into the future, when we think back to 2020, we’ll certainly remember the thousands of nurses in Ontario and millions across the globe who helped to keep us safe.


Dianne Martin, RPN, RN

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