It’s hard to believe that my term as WeRPN’s Board President is coming to a close this year. Over the last two years, I have enjoyed the opportunity to connect with so many RPNs from across Ontario and learn more about your experiences. It’s been a wonderful chance to see how the role of the RPN is evolving. Whether it’s working in hospices, public health, correctional facilities, hospitals, working with Indigenous communities, leading research or teaching, RPNs have so many new and changing career paths.
For all nurses and frontline health professionals, 2020 has been a whirlwind year (what a year to be designated the Year of the Nurse!). For many of us, myself included, the past several months have felt like an emotional rollercoaster. When the pandemic first emerged, I was overcome with fear and worry. Worry about my home care clients and how to ensure they could continue to receive care safely. Worry for my family and the steps I would need to take to keep them safe. And of course, worry for my own health, as an older nurse who could be at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Now, as Ontarians try to return to a semblance of normal life, I worry about the second wave and whether we’re truly prepared for what lies ahead.
At the same time, this period has provided an opportunity for reflection about the need to strengthen our health sector. As a home care nurse, the pandemic has renewed my belief in the importance of aging in place as long as it’s possible to do so. For many older Ontarians, the events of the past few months have raised questions about whether long-term care is where they would like the spend their golden years given the vulnerabilities we’ve seen in the sector.
While it’s not the ideal option for everyone, I believe that expanding support for our home care system will not only keep many older Ontarians safe from the issues of congregated living, but also give them an opportunity to receive care in an environment that’s both comfortable and familiar. If more people were supported to stay in their homes, this would ease the growing capacity issues faced by our long-term care system—pressures that are only expected to worsen as our population ages.
For too long, our home and community care systems have been in the shadows of other health sectors. We’ve seen years of underfunding put even more stress on home care operators and the nurses and personal support workers providing the care. I have had days where I’m expected to see 10-12 clients. How can you be expected to do thorough assessments and provide care if you’re constantly rushing from one client to the next? For many of us in the sector, we know that the system isn’t designed to give clients the robust holistic attention they need. But perhaps now, against the backdrop of this pandemic, the time is ripe for change. In the months ahead, my hope is that this horrible pandemic will give us all a chance to collectively rethink our existing systems and give rise to new opportunities.
In closing, I want to thank all WeRPN members for the chance to serve as your Board President. It has been an honour and a privilege to help shape this organization and do the important advocacy we are doing on behalf of all RPNs across Ontario. WeRPN is a trusted partner of governments and regularly called on provincially, nationally, and even globally to influence nursing policy change. This year, we launched our new strategic plan that will chart the path for the organization to 2024 and help WeRPN continue to meet the needs of RPNs into the future.
In the new year, I will be handing the reins over to our President-elect Suzanne Schell, RPN. I have known Suzanne for many years and am thrilled that she will be taking on this important leadership role. A special thank you as well to the WeRPN staff and my fellow Board members for making this experience so memorable. And as always, thank you to all Ontario RPNs for your ongoing dedication, compassion and commitment. You inspire me every day.
RPN Past President, WeRPN