When I think about new beginnings, I see anticipation, hope, and optimism for whatever is on its way.
We’ve come a long way over the past year-and-a-half. The progress we’re now making on vaccinations means we can look forward to stepping into a familiar but different world—a fresh start.
At the start of the pandemic, as our healthcare sector was grappling with a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), worries about the availability of ventilators, and scrambling to ramp up effective infection control protocols, so much was unknown, with everyone trying their best to manage rapidly evolving information.
And against this backdrop, we soon saw pioneering examples of innovation.
Some domestic manufacturers paused the production of their products to help meet the demand for our new necessities. Breweries and distilleries began to produce hand sanitizers; some others like Windsor’s Harbour Technologies, which services the nuclear industry, created what would be Canada’s first certified N-95 mask. Automotive companies used their assembly lines to manufacture ventilators. The list goes on.
Most importantly, nurses are committed to looking out for each other. Hugs were replaced by watching each other don and doff protective gear to ensure that everyone kept each other safe from any infection breach. We also saw many nurses agree to be deployed to other sectors to help their colleagues in times of extreme need.
In a way, the pandemic forced us to use our collective resources and strength to find new ways to help each other.
Take telemedicine, for example. During COVID-19, virtual care became commonplace to ensure continued access to care without the risk of infection. Our doctors and nurse practitioners learned that we could manage to provide good care over the phone in some cases. Data can be captured from diagnostic or vital monitoring devices such as heart and blood pressure monitors and other home diagnostic equipment.
Gone are the days of having to spend hours in a waiting room for a short appointment that could be done remotely. This is the beginning of a new era of care, one I believe is here to stay. This is the client-centred option we have always thought we should have.
Nurses are the unsung heroes of our health system, especially those in the hard-hit long-term care and home care sectors.
Some other things the world learned, but I always knew: nurses are the unsung heroes of our health system, especially those in the hard-hit long-term care and home care sectors.
COVID-19 cracked open the deficiencies that exist in the current models. RPNs have been sounding the alarm about this for years, but the pandemic underscored that we cannot run staffing levels close to dangerous capacity and expect the system to hold up during a crisis. This was echoed in Ontario’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission’s final report, and I hope this will lead to meaningful change.
I am especially heartened by some of the recommendations that call for implementing measures to recruit and retain RPNs. As well as to create more full-time positions; and introduce adequate supports for nurses and other healthcare workers in terms of sick pay, as well as offer compensation packages that are in line with the workload, experience and expertise.
We’re already beginning to see some investments trickle in from the government. But there’s a long way to go.
The commission’s report is a starting point, a new beginning, and a chance for us to engage in the future.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to all nurses across all sectors for not dropping the ball even once during what has and continues to be a pivotal moment for Canadian healthcare. You are all a source of inspiration.
We are standing at the cross-road of healthcare reforms. My hope is we continue making sure we’re prepared for whatever happens in the future.
Here’s to new beginnings!
Dianne Martin, RPN, RN