Morgan Hoffarth

Honoured to represent RNAO

It’s hard to believe that this is my last President’s View column. While we have all experienced the concept of time differently during the pandemic, the past two years have flown by for me. As I reflect back on how much we have accomplished as an association, and the conditions under which we accomplished them, I can say with certainty that I feel proud and privileged to have represented you as president. 

This column highlights some of our work. I am particularly impressed with our Nursing Through Crisis report. Released during Nursing Week 2022, it details how a knowledgeable and dedicated group of professionals have been carrying on despite the many challenges of COVID-19. It also lays bare the current state of nursing. There is instability in the profession that requires urgent action. 

The report analyzed survey findings of more than 5,200 RNs from across Canada during the third wave. The results are alarming and we issued a call to action for the government, employers, educators and associations to work together to retain the RNs we have, attract new people to the profession and address workload concerns. Your feedback also expressed a desire for more mentorship, more leadership and other professional development opportunities. RNAO has an excellent track record for providing this type of programming, which is why our report outlined four programs we have launched targeted to your needs. 

This report is pivotal because we entered the pandemic with the lowest RN-per-population ratio in Canada and continued to see the serious impact of this as the pandemic unfolded. This shortage of RNs is present across all sectors of the health system and significantly impacts on the public with surgeries and procedures cancelled and entire ERs and maternity wards closed because there are not enough nurses. We all know that a bed is just a bed without a nurse to take care of the person in it. 

Nursing Through Crisis built on our Work and Wellbeing Survey Results report, which was released the year before (March 2021). It captured the pulse of nurses working during the pandemic’s early months and reinforced how the pandemic was causing significant fatigue within our already stretched RN workforce. The survey pointed to a looming exodus from the profession once the pandemic was over and highlighted the need for action.

To say there is so much to be proud of doesn’t seem adequate to recognize the tremendous work that has been done by RNAO staff and our members over the past two years.

The policy platform that we released in February 2022, in advance of the provincial election, was another piece of work I am very proud of. RNAO is a strong advocate for environmental and social determinants of health, nursing and care delivery, and this platform demonstrated our advocacy work in action. The asks in the platform related to nursing were aimed at increasing the workforce using a multi-pronged approach. There is no arguing that more seats in nursing programs, an increased investment in bridging programs and a focus on retention strategies will increase the RN workforce and provide much-needed relief for our current workforce. Imagine having enough nurses on staff to have reasonable nurse-to-patient ratios and to not work below base staffing every shift.

The role and scope of practice of NPs has long been a priority for RNAO. How to grow this role can be found in our Vision for Tomorrow report, which we released during Queen’s Park Day in February 2021. This report, spearheaded by the association's NP Task Force called for role expansion to fully utilize NPs to improve the health of Ontarians and strengthen the health system. NPs play a vital role in access to care across all sectors and the optimization of NPs in all sectors is essential.  

Some of you may be aware that I made a career move during the pandemic to work in long-term care (LTC) as a director of care. Already aware of the challenges in this sector, it was heartening that many of RNAO’s recommendations – such as staffing and changing the funding model – were included in Ontario’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission final report. Throughout the pandemic, RNAO highlighted the devastation in LTC. Lead commissioner Justice Frank Marrocco agreed with what we said was necessary to address long-standing challenges in the sector, including more RNs.  

The launch of the Black Nurses Task Force report, Acknowledging, Addressing and Tackling Anti-Black Racism and Discrimination Within the Nursing Profession, this past February is another key accomplishment of the association. The report calls out the discrimination and racism Black nurses experience and laid out a set of recommendations to confront it and affect the long-awaited change we must see. I am so proud of the work done by this group, which carries on through RNAO’s Black Nurses Task Force and the association’s Black Nurses Leading Change Interest Group.

RNAO’s reputation as clinical leader is further cemented with the release of two new best practice guidelines (BPG) during the time I served as president. RNAO unveiled its Promoting 2SLGBTQI+ Health Equity BPG along with a position statement on health equity for sexually and gender diverse individuals during last year’s AGM. These are important as they provide key recommendations that will promote health equity for 2SLGBTQI+ in Ontario and worldwide. The Rainbow Nursing Interest Group was a key stakeholder in the development of the position statement, a testament to the engagement of our members. It was also an honour to watch the release of the first-ever Indigenous-focused BPG on Promoting Smoking Reduction and Cessation with Indigenous Peoples of Reproductive Age and Their Communities, during this year’s AGM.

And, to help drive and sustain change, The Leading Change Toolkit, launched in October 2021, provides a framework for those who want to improve health outcomes in their workplaces by implementing evidence-based change.

To say there is so much to be proud of doesn’t seem adequate to recognize the tremendous work that has been done by RNAO staff and our members over the past two years. Although a virtual presidency is not what I would have hoped for, it has been a truly rewarding experience.

At our AGM in June, I passed the gavel over to Dr. Claudette Holloway, whom you will meet as part of a Q and A in this issue of RNJ. I want to thank my fellow board of director members and our CEO Dr. Doris Grinspun for their extraordinary work, commitment and guidance. I value the contribution that each and every one of you makes each and every day and I look forward to continuing to represent RNAO and you as immediate past-president.

Spring 2022
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