Dr. Claudette Holloway

Political action: A basic democratic responsibility

I am proud of the fact that MPPs always answer the call to meet with RNAO members when we ask for their time. We should all take a moment to reflect on what this says about nurses and about RNAO’s influence. Put simply: our association matters.

So far this year, I have had the pleasure of participating in two virtual Queen’s Park on the Road visits with MPPs. Prior to becoming president, I sat in on numerous meetings with politicians dating back to my time on the executive for Region 7. 

While meeting with NDP MPP Lisa Gretzky of Windsor this past January, we spoke about challenges in the health system, including access to primary care and long waits in hospital ERs. Members of our Windsor chapter each took turns to talk about how addressing nursing workforce issues are the key to solving systemic issues in our health system, and how more RNs and more NP-led clinics will help improve access to care.

Gretzky, mindful of the frustration people may be feeling, took the time to reassure us that in her dealings with constituents, no one complained about nurses. They know nurses are doing so much with so little, running ragged, and that you are working hard to provide the best care possible.  

Gretzky appreciated hearing the information outlined in our fact sheet that crystallizes the state of the profession and the solutions we are recommending to the government to make the health system more responsive to patients and more effective.

RNAO members Kathy Moreland, Hali Sitarz and Kiersten Smith also spoke about the opioid overdose crisis and the resources that will help those who need our support. In Windsor, the situation is particularly acute since the number of opioid deaths has been climbing since 2014 (from 18 that year to 105 in 2022). Equally alarming is the prevalence of fentanyl hidden in substances. That’s why harm reduction and safe consumption and treatment services are essential to saving lives. These sites allow people to test their drugs and consume safely and receive attention for their overall health-care needs. The end goal is always to help someone overcome their substance use. In order to do that, you have to first build trust and meet people where they are in their journey. 

RNAO has the ear of politicians. Let’s power our voices and take advantage of opportunities to speak out for nursing and health.

Sitarz and Smith also joined me for a meeting with PC MPP Anthony Leardi of Essex. He told us he is committed to addressing the issue of nursing recruitment. We reminded him that retention strategies are equally important. He also took the time to thank us for informing him, and for the attention we place on the state of the environment, noting its impact on chronic health concerns, housing and mental health. 

Many of the one-on-one conversations with MPPs during these and other visits across the province continued over breakfast meetings during this year’s Queen Park Day. United with purpose and passion, the 150 RNs, NPs and nursing students who gathered at the legislative building on Feb. 29 shared their expertise with MPPs, including leaders of all political parties and cabinet ministers. It was an opportunity to hear and be heard. 

The issues that we addressed included the need to shore up the nursing workforce, increase access to care, and address the racism and discrimination Black, Indigenous and 2SLGBTQI+ nurses face in the profession and workplace. It was powering to exercise our right as professionals and as constituents and engage in respectful discussions to help shape healthy public policy. I invite you to read a complete wrap up of the day in our feature, Nurses must feel safe and empowered: Taking action on racism and discrimination

Each of you can and should be engaged in the political life of our province. During Nursing Week (May 6-12), RNAO will again be organizing Take Your MPP To Work visits. These visits are important because they give MPPs another vital opportunity to look through the window of our profession. They learn first-hand about the expert work RNs and NPs do and the challenges and the joy associated with making a difference in people’s lives. I urge you to reach out to our policy department for more information about what’s being planned and how to become involved.

Join me and our board of directors and assembly of leaders as we organize Take Your MPP To Work events in your community. Invite your local representative to shadow you at work so they witness nursing in action and see first-hand what needs to happen to make our health system better for all Ontarians. 

Remember, RNAO has the ear of politicians. Let’s power our voices and take advantage of opportunities to speak out for nursing and health.

Winter 2024
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