Sep. 27, 2021

Our nurses are taken for granted – that must change

Recent demonstrations at hospitals have highlighted a long-ignored dilemma within our health care systems. Nurses are forbidden to offer opinions or commentary on health care issues without risking disciplinary action. Considering that nurses provide all health care once a patient is admitted, that is clearly unreasonable. They are not deemed competent to prescribe patient care, but they administer all day-to-day care. 


It is time we had a hard look at our most unappreciated health care workers; the nurses who help us recover from illnesses and injuries. Depending on the hour of the day, they do everything from monitoring severely ill patients in an intensive care unit to providing reassurance to someone recovering from minor surgery.

Nurses are trapped between two powerful political entities.

We have politicians and bureaucrats trying to keep a lid on rapidly increasing health care costs.

We have physicians and surgeons, fretting about inadequate funding for health care needs.

For the most part, nurses who provide primary care 24/7 are left out of health care planning and policies. That is irrational. Nurses know what changes are required for the system to work more effectively and efficiently. They have to know the drugs they administer and how to ensure we get the right medications at the proper levels to heal.

Nurses are not automated robot, moving from patient to patient between doctor’s rounds. They are an army of highly skilled professionals who are ignored by the system unless there is a failure, when they become potential scapegoats.

We don’t have enough nurses to keep health care systems running at peak capacity. I use the plural as we have thirteen different systems operating with interference from the federal government.

We need to sort out the nurse’s role in health care. We need many more nurses, and we need to pay them better than we do. The under-staffing in our systems is killing us. We cannot expect professionals working 12-hour shifts and coerced overtime to perform at their best.

We need a new relationship between doctors and nurses. I recognize the years of study required and the onerous responsibilities of doctors, but without nurses carrying out their orders, doctors cannot function. Nurses deserve and warrant respect for the continually upgrades professionalism and practical experience they bring to the table.

Doctors come and go. They visit the patients they care for, adjust orders as necessary and leave. They do not get to see the whole picture of a hospital filled with patients under the care of a dozen different doctors, all putting a strain on the services required.

Nurses live with this conglomeration every hour they are on shift and thus have a unique perspective of our health care systems. We need their advice and perspective to help heal systems in distress.

When nurses express concerns over new medications, such as COVID-19 vaccines, they speak from a wealth of practical and professional experience. When they express concerns over how COVID patients are triaged, they are commenting on real situations they have to deal with day after day.

These are dedicated professionals who have committed themselves to an exacting and often exhausting effort to serve everyone in their communities. They hold the keys to improvements that will provide for our future health care needs. Let’s bring them fully into health care planning and policy decisions before it is too late.

Different provinces have undertaken expensive studies to improve their systems, but nurses are usually left out, regarded as a necessary component of health care but not at the planning level.

I submit that it is like trying to improve a huge industrial plant without consulting with the professionals and supervisors who make the plant functional.

Health care as a science has made enormous strides over the past four decades.

Our health care systems, designed in the 1970s, are archaic, creaking relics.

We have a 900 HP 2021 computer-controlled engine stuffed in a 1970 family sedan and expect it to work. The brakes are burned out and the driveshaft has snapped. Haul it to the scrapyard and do  complete rebuild.

Your medical file and mine should be immediately transferrable from doctor to doctor and available to any doctor treating us in an emergency.

Our health care systems are a half-century out of date. Band aids and baling wire won’t keep the systems going. We need 21st Century electronics to replace the ball-point pens and paper records and interconnections between all provinces.        

A rethink is in order.