Dr. Claudette Holloway

Our collective voice is powerful: Show up and speak up

This column marks my first official message to you as president. I am extremely proud and feel blessed to represent you. RNAO is an important organization, and my personal pledge to you is to bring my leadership, my energy and my commitment to continue advancing our important work. 

It has been an incredibly busy time since I marked the beginning of my role during RNAO’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) in June. While an extra special time for me, the event held its usual excitement as a gathering with fellow members to renew commitment to our proud history of 96 years serving registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing students.

I remain proud that RNAO has a history of challenging organizations to address racial diversity in leadership opportunities and pleased that for more than 25 years, I have been involved with RNAO progressively leading to my eligibility for the presidency. I bring diverse nursing experiences that range from public health, maternal newborn, and long-term care, and from front line to management. I am a Black woman who has known both racism but who also has known and experienced the support of committed allies. Even though the AGM was virtual, receiving the hand-over from President Morgan Hoffarth was special: An opportunity to represent RNAO members at a critical period in nursing and health care. 

Despite the challenges faced by the nursing profession, our AGM participants were engaged and the submission of 13 resolutions is evidence that RNAO has a strong role to play in creating and sustaining a better nursing profession and health system for Ontarians. The leadership of our esteemed CEO, Dr. Doris Grinspun has brought RNAO to a firm foundation on which the organization can continue to grow with our contributions. 

I will serve all RNAO members as we fight for policies to achieve a better tomorrow for all nurses, nurse practitioners, and students, and a better health-care future for Ontarians. Nurses demonstrate knowledge, expertise, resilience, trustworthiness, compassion, and wholistic caring, advocacy, client-centered care, and innovation. Our collective RNAO voices have and will always have influence in nursing and health. 

The past two and a half years have brought unimaginable challenges and a human resource crisis in nursing: employment issues, burnout of members, illness, and discouragement among nursing students and faculty. I offer my condolences to those who experienced the loss of loved ones. As you heal from your loss, may reflections on joyous times from the past bring comfort and determination to help others. You made sacrifices to bring those in your care through the pandemic storm. You considered their needs ahead of your own families to serve at home and abroad. I admire your courage and leadership that impact lives. 

The collective voices of RNAO members are essential and needed more than ever! As the current pandemic subsides, the nursing crisis is far from over and we must not waver in addressing ongoing and emerging issues.  

Although we share common elements as nurses, nurses and Ontarians are experiencing systemic and structural racism, and racism from individuals. Anti-Black, Anti-Asian, Anti-Indigenous, Anti-Jewish, and Anti-Islamic racism must be eliminated from our profession and our health system. Racism has a negative impact on the health of our racialized colleagues and peers. It has restricted career advancement for many nurses, and it continues to be a barrier for those seeking formal leadership roles. As noted author Maya Angelou said: “History despite its wrenching pain cannot be unlived but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” Thanks to the support of RNAO board and staff, former RNAO president Dr. Angela Cooper Brathwaite, her co-chair Corsita Garraway, and the Black Nurses Task Force, generated 19 recommendations for a more inclusive nursing profession. Ending racism cannot be the responsibility of only those who experience it. I encourage allies to strengthen their resolve to make our profession and health system what Ontarians deserve: equitable for us all. Racism and discrimination have no place in nursing and health-care systems. Everyone deserves respect, dignity and access to health care.

Let us continue to advocate for an end to Bill 124, to protect the health and safety of nurses and Ontarians, strengthen social and environmental determinants of health and support effective public health measures. Let us continue to push retention and recruitment strategies, effective processes for internationally educated nurses (IEN), mental health, work-life balance in all areas of nursing, particularly in acute care and long-term care settings, and the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalized populations. The collective support and leadership of each RNAO member are essential to move policy and speak for those who have little or no voice. 

I encourage RNs, NPs and nursing students to continue speaking out. Consider how you may lead from your place of practice, learning, teaching, research, or volunteering. I encourage you to see "us" – not "us" and "them." Under the banner of RNAO, we can become stronger and more powerful to shape a better way forward. United we stand and divided we fall. So much to do; join me to build each other up, speak up and show up to influence healthy public policy! 

Summer/Fall 2022
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