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Looking forward, together

Contributor
We can all agree that 2020 was not the year any of us were expecting.

When the World Health Organization first designated 2020  as the “Year of the Nurse,” I had hoped this year would be a  long celebration where we would shine the spotlight on our collective achievements and successes, as well as cheer,  mentor, and support each other. Instead, we faced a pandemic that has upended our work-life balance and forced us into grim introspection.

Many nurses, myself included, took on extra responsibilities. In addition to my regular duties as an ambulatory care nurse,  I was asked to become a COVID-19 assessment center nurse. I would leave the COVID-19 assessment center exhausted because the patient volumes remained consistently high,  and I knew that the task was critical and there was no room for errors. Like many of you, I faced additional stress worrying that I might contract the disease and bring it home —  risking my family’s health.

Outside of my clinical position, I also work as an educator in the Practical Nursing Program at St. Lawrence College. This year brought significant new challenges in the way we educate future nurses. Educators had to reimagine how best to deliver the curriculum virtually while maintaining our commitment to quality and excellence. In my role at the college, we implemented new robust infection prevention and control protocols that allowed me to continue delivering in-person education to my students a couple of times a week. However,  to ensure everyone’s safety, our delivery and evaluation processes had to be changed dramatically. I know that many students across the province have faced different levels of disruptions to their education. My heart continues to go out  to them as we collectively try to navigate this “new normal.”

I know my experiences are not unique. In speaking with nursing colleagues across Ontario, I recognize that nurses everywhere are undergoing what feels like a never-ending roller-coaster ride. We are all responding to the urgency of the situation on the ground to the best of our abilities. We are also adjusting to disruptions in our personal lives, whether that has meant trying to manage virtual classrooms for our children while working from home or caring for an elderly family member that is particularly vulnerable to the disease.

Despite the challenges, I continue to be in awe of the integrity and competence of RPNs as they continue to support various health care teams. I have observed bravery, strength, and compassion. And while I know it’s been said time and time again, I feel that we truly are in this together.

I recognize the tremendous work you have done and continue to do, and understand it comes at a significant personal cost. I have seen the toll this pandemic is taking on nurses’ mental health and wellness. You have had to cope with: ballooning workloads, anxiety, extra shifts, financial stresses, illness and exhaustion, while also taking care of your families. In short, doing everything humanly possible to make sure you’re keeping your residents, patients, clients, and those at home safe.

I could not be more proud of this amazing group of current and future nurses of Ontario. In my new role as president of the WeRPN Board, I am humbled and honored to represent Ontario RPNs and promise to do everything I can to be a strong advocate for you because you deserve nothing less.

Even though we could not celebrate as we hoped in 2020, I hope you will join me in taking a moment to celebrate what we have accomplished, be proud, and remain supportive of one another. Whatever challenges lie ahead in 2021, I know together we will get through this. Please take care and stay safe.

Suzanne Schell
RPN President, WeRPN

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