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VOL 38 NO3
















• OCTOBER 2019



6 CHECK IN News and events from around the province.

13 LISTENING TO MEMBERS Province-wide meetings are keeping members informed about provincial contract implementation.



It’s time for nurses to have a say about how their pensions are managed.


A nurse’s personal journey helps her appreciate the importance of inclusive seniors’ care.


BCNU participates in formal review of workers’ compensation system.

Richmond Hospital ICU nurses achieve reversal of controversial redeployment policy.





Canada’s aging population has nurses calling for action and investments in long-term care and other seniors’ care services.





MISSION STATEMENT The British Columbia Nurses’ Union protects and advances the health, social and economic well-being of our members, our profession and our communities. BCNU UPDATE MAGAZINE is published by the BC Nurses’ Union, an independent Canadian union governed by a council elected by our 48,000 members. Signed articles do not necessarily represent official BCNU policies. EDITOR Lew MacDonald CONTRIBUTORS Rochelle Baker, Juliet Chang, Laura Comuzzi, Sharon Costello, Caroline Flink, Hanif Karim, Kath Kitts, Shawn Leclair, Courtney McGillion, Cindy Paton, Umar Sheikh, Christine Sorensen, Dan Tatroff PHOTOS Rochelle Baker, Will Cook, Hanif Karim, Shawn Leclair, Courtney McGillion, Lew MacDonald, Dan Tatroff CONTACT US


When you move, please let BCNU know your new address so we can keep sending you Update Magazine, election information and other vital union material. Send us your home email address and we’ll send you BCNU’s member eNews. Please contact the membership department by email at or by phone at 604-433-2268 or 1-800-663-9991

BCNU Communications Department 4060 Regent Street Burnaby, BC, V5C 6P5 PHONE 604.433.2268 TOLL FREE 1.800.663.9991 FAX 604.433.7945 TOLL FREE FAX 1.888.284.2222 BCNU WEBSITE EMAIL EDITOR MOVING? Please send change of address to Publications Mail Agreement 40834030 Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to BCNU 4060 Regent Street Burnaby, BC, V5C 6P5





ALL HAS ARRIVED. IT’S A time of year that’s full of possibilities and I’m excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for all BCNU members. BCNU Council have rolled up our collective sleeves and we’re busy leading a range of initiatives. The most important of these is the Nurses’ Bargaining Association provincial contract implementation process. Several working groups made up of NBA and health employer reps have been hard at work since the provincial collective agreement was ratified earlier this year. Implementation plans have been developed for many of the negotiated articles of agreement and we’re now sharing this information at meetings and worksite visits in all BCNU regions through the fall. Positive member engagement is at the heart of BCNU’s new organizational priority, and ongoing member consultation is important at this stage of the contract implementation process. These information meetings are an invaluable opportunity for me to get out and meet with you where you are and to listen to your concerns. If you’re not able to attend a meeting we still want to hear from you. I encourage you to talk to your regional chair or a member of the provincial executive to share your perspective. We’ve also launched confidential online surveys that give you the opportunity to provide direct feedback on important issues like NBA extended health benefits and workplace psychological health and safety. Please visit the BCNU member portal to participate today, and look out for more surveys in the months to come.

Nurses should also look for opportunities to share their experiences with members of the public so that British Columbians can appreciate the difficult working conditions so many of us face. This is especially true ahead of this year’s federal election. Public health care is a top-of-mind issue for all Canadians. It’s important that the federal government work with provinces to improve public health care and provide the funding that’s needed to ensure our patients get the care they need. As one of the most respected professions in Canada, nurses have the power to influence change for the better. Whether it’s about the need to address violence in health care, invest in seniors’ care or create a national drug plan, when nurses speak, the public listens. I encourage everyone to reach out to their MPs and candidates and let them know that the federal government must play a central role when it comes to funding health care and providing policy leadership. Your vote and your voice can make a difference. Talk to your friends and family about the issues that are important to you and make sure they vote for a candidate who’s committed to improving our public health-care system. •









CNU WELCOMED TWO AMAZING SUMMER students to our Burnaby office this year. Alicia Shapira (left) and Jessica Sieu (right) joined the professional practice and advocacy department to work on several projects, including putting together BCNU’s 2019 pocket calendar and updating the union’s position statement on social determinants of heath. “It’s been an inspiration to work here because everyone is so passionate about their work – they are really into advocating for people and effecting change,” remarked Sieu. Shapira was also thankful for the experience. “I was a little intimidated going into this position, but everyone was really welcoming and friendly.” Sieu was raised in Vancouver and volunteered with St. John Ambulance teaching kids first aid. She says nursing was a natural progression and is now completing her third year in Douglas College’s nursing program. Burnaby’s Shapira is starting her third year at Douglas College. She says she has always been interested in the medical field and chose nursing because she likes to make connections with patients. Best of luck to you both! •



BCNU is a governance leader. That means having a comprehensive set of policies that ensure we are able effectively advocate for our members. It’s also important that members understand how we make decisions and can engage with the policy making process, whether that’s suggesting new policies, or being able to find relevant policy information when they need it. We now have a new online policy manual that makes it easier than ever for members to get a hold of the information they need and know when new policies have been created, or when old ones have changed. The new platform is simple to use, easy to search and, best of all, allows you to follow policy progress online and see how changes to policy are being made. Visit the policy manual on the member portal today.

CASTING CALL Would you like to become the face of BCNU? Up to 20 delegates from the Human Rights and Equity Conference will be chosen to participate in a professional photo shoot on Nov. 30. The photos will be used for BCNU advertisements and promotional materials. One day book-off and overnight hotel accommodation, if required, for out-of-town delegates will be provided. Interested? E-mail

ERRATUM In the July/August 2019 issue of Update Magazine we incorrectly reported that Northern Haida Gwaii Hospital is the only acute care facility located on the islands. In fact, there is a second hospital serving this community – the Haida Gwaii Hospital and Health Centre.

MAKING NEWS BCNU in the headlines

Tracy Quewezance

KAMLOOPS NURSE SHORTAGE HIGHLIGHTED When a severe staffing shortage hit Royal Inland Hospital (RIH) this summer, BCNU Thompson North Okanagan region chair Tracy Quewezance spoke to CFJC Today about the ongoing shortage of specialty educated nurses and its effect on patient care. She informed the media outlet on July 19 of the significant number of temporary and permanent vacancies in the Kamloops hospital’s intensive care unit and emergency department and explained these were due in part to retirements and the specialized training the positions require. “You can’t just graduate from nursing and walk right into these departments,” she said, “you need extra

special training and experience to walk into them.” Quewezance also described the challenges RIH nurses face when working short. “They do have to consolidate at times, because our ER is in a couple of different areas. They have a streaming area, they have an area that has the admitted patients that don’t have beds yet in the hospital, and then there’s the main ER department. “So when they are short sometimes those other areas end up getting closed and they bring those patients into the main department.” Quewezance noted that Interior Health is offering additional training for nurses who want to work in the affected departments. But these measures are often not enough. “A lot of retirements have happened, seasoned nurses have left and people may have retired sooner than they expected because they were burned out,” she explained. “It’s not one thing that caused it all, but we are seeing this right across this province.” BC is currently facing its worst OR nursing shortage in over 20 years.

CARING FOR THE COMMUNITY Over 50 BCNU members volunteered at this year’s Fair at the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver. Clockwise from top left: Joy Asensi, Lyndini Lasdoce, BCNU Vice President Aman Grewal, Ugochi Ibediro, Yasmin Adem, Ashana Ramsey, Michael Scott, Rissa Parto, Shirley Oandasan, Fannie Ibarra and Evangeline Tamidles.




HE WET SKIES AT THIS YEAR’S FAIR AT the PNE in Vancouver didn’t dampen the spirits of the BCNU members who volunteered to help with the union’s community outreach efforts at the event. Shaughnessy Heights region lobby coordinator and event organizer Bal Borchert reports that on Aug. 22 – the fair’s seniors’ day – over 800 blood pressure tests were completed and many thank-yous were received. She says a highlight of the event occurred when a woman told volunteers of her visit to the BCNU table at a previous fair, where she was advised to see her physician because of elevated blood pressure. “The woman told the us that the recommendation to see her doctor helped her get the treatment she needed. She thanked us for the valuable life saving work we do, and said she is healthy today due in part to our efforts,” says Borchert. “Kudos to the 54 volunteers that were the cornerstone to the success of this event. They all brought their positive energy and enthusiasm along with their nursing knowledge.” •




BCNU IN THE COMMUNITY This summer saw BCNU members participating in community events across the province. From Coquitlam’s Highland Games to Creston Valley’s Fall Fair, nurses and other BCNU members were there representing their union and their professions. BCNU’s big blue bus was on hand at many of the events this summer, and was well-received wherever it went. Talk to your regional chair if you would like to see BCNU’s campaign bus visit an event in your community. HAPPY NURSES East Kootenay region members were on hand Sept. 6 at the 101st Annual Creston Valley Fall Fair. Standing (l-r): Kacy Mackinnon, Erin Eady, Dawn Terrill, Vicki Staples, Martha Ipema and Samantha Molloy. Sitting: Nancy Silzer and Barbara Taylor.

SUMMER FUN Simon Fraser region members share a laugh at the BC Highland Games and Scottish Festival in Coquitlam June 15. From left: Cam Ward, Maria Huertas, Wendy Gibbs, Jereme Bennett, Suellen Larsen and Roy Hansen.



FLYING THE FLAG Several RIVA region members joined at the Aug. 25 Pinoy Fiesta in Vancouver.

CALL FOR EXPRESSIONS OF INTEREST Expressions of interest for members wishing to serve on BCNU’s Resolutions Committee and Bylaws Committee can submit expressions of interest between Oct. 28 to Nov. 22. Committee members are appointed following a vote by BCNU council. Two positions are available on each committee. One position will be filled by a member from the lower mainland and the other from outside the lower mainland. Ad hoc members may be appointed as necessary. Committee roles and responsibilities can be found on BCNU’s online Policy and Procedure Manual. Visit the member portal to review committee roles and responsibilities and submit an expression of interest. Questions? Please contact Lorne Burkart, BCNU Manager, Pensions and Special Projects: ACKNOWLEDGING THE LEGACY OF RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS BCNU members don orange shirts on Sept. 30. Clockwise from top left: BCNU executive councillor Adriane Gear, President Christine Sorensen, Vice President Aman Grewal and Treasurer Sharon Sponton; North West region member Hanna Embree; Thompson North Okanagan region member and residential school survivor June Shackley surrounded by her family; Coast Mountain region chair Kath-Ann Terrett; Okanagan Similkameen region members Sherry Ridsdale and region chair Rhonda Croft.

EVERY CHILD MATTERS BCNU celebrates Orange Shirt Day

B WOMEN’S RIDE South Island region members (standing from left) Wendy Dimaculangan, Leslie Zinger and Leanne Robertson-Weeds represented BCNU at the 7th Annual Canadian Women’s Ride Day on July 21. Over $5,000 was raised to support Anney’s Closet, a free store for women and girls run by Soroptimist International of Victoria Westshore. Also in attendance was BCNU campaign bus driver Will Cook (seated) who was treated to a different kind of driver’s seat.

CNU MEMBERS ACROSS THE PROVINCE TOOK TIME on Sept. 30 to recognize the harm the residential school system has done to Indigenous children’s self-esteem and well-being. For the past seven years, Sept. 30 has been designated Orange Shirt Day. It’s an event that honours, acknowledges and remembers the children who attended residential schools. The day saw British Columbians from many walks of life honouring those children who grew into adults, those who never made it home and the generations that have been affected by residential schools. The orange shirt references the story of Phyllis Webstad, who was excited about her first day at St. Joseph’s Residential School in Williams Lake in 1973. Her grandmother had bought her a new, bright orange shirt for the occasion. But when she proudly arrived at the school, her excitement turned to terror. The staff cut her hair. She was forced to change out of her clothes. Her new shirt was taken away, never to be returned. •











ULTIPLE PRIDE PARADES, FESTIVALS AND OTHER events painted British Columbia with every colour of the rainbow this summer. Vancouver Pride celebrated it’s 41st anniversary and the rest of the province was just as enthusiastic in its celebrations of inclusivity. Every year, BCNU members and their families across the province are encouraged to join their co-workers as volunteers at Pride events in their communities. The free and inclusive events celebrate the gains LGBTQ2S+ activists have made to achieve acceptance and equality in Canada while also reminding us of the work that still needs to be done to end prejudice and discrimination. BCNU LGBTQ caucus council liaison Tracy Quewezance notes that community support for these events continues to grow. “The participation of people in the parade and the amount of people from the community that came out to support Kamloops Pride on August 25 was amazing!” she reports. “This event just keeps growing each year which is so wonderful.” Watch for 2020 Pride dates and locations on BCNU’s website event calendar.













1. Volunteers Lorraine Lajeunesse, Kerry Chalmers, Shayna Taggart, Joel Williamson, Jennelle MacDougall and Karen Rossen take to the streets of Victoria on July 7 to show their BCNU Pride. 2. LGBTQ Caucus chair, Hanna Embree (top right) joins other BCNU members and their families at the August 4 Vancouver Pride celebration. 3. Thompson North Okanagan LGBTQ regional rep Bev Moody and Sandra Dessau welcome visitors to the August 25 Kamloops Pride event. 4. BCNU summer student Jessica Sieu shows her love for Pride at the August 4 Vancouver celebration. 5. Pacific Rim region lobby coordinator Lee Frederick rides his unicorn at Nanaimo’s June 9 festival. 6. South Islands region members Leslie Zinger and Daniela Everaars indulge in a little sweet time together on July 7. 7. South Fraser Valley region lobby coordinator Tash Minwalla enjoys a hug from BCNU

bus driver Will Cook at the August 4 Vancouver event. 8. East Kootenay region chair Helena Barzilay joins Cyndi Weltz and Jerod Dobson during Cranbrook’s June 9 Pride celebration. 9. In a beautiful display of colour, North West region chair Teri Forster poses with member Emma Millson Taylor. 10. East Kootenay region’s Steph Sobczak displays a basket of Pride goodies on June 9. 11. Worksite disability steward Michelle Martinson enjoys a laugh with Holly Gale as the BCNU bus rolls on at Nanaimo’s June 9 celebration. 12. BCNU summer students Alisa Shapira and Jessica Sieu strike a pose at Vancouver Pride August 4. 13. BCNU staff prep the swag for various Pride events and festivals throughout summer 2019. Left to right: BCNU Vice President Aman Grewal, Hanif Karim, Glynis Wilson and students Alisa Shapira and Jessica Sieu. 14. Beth Zona joins Kaela Freeman and her partner Toni Freeman in hoisting the flag during Abbotsford’s July 20 Fraser Valley Pride event.





compensation (I was claiming reimbursement for vacation time and sick time used to manage symptoms) and was M A G A Z I N E denied based on the fact that the original traumas occurred in the late 80s and 90s and I had not filed, as required by PLUS WorkSafeBC rules, within one year of an injury. Re: These eyes have seen much It was a humiliating, painful and suffering (July/August 2019) THESE EYES HAVE SEEN re-traumatizing experience. I was forced SO MUCH SUFFERING to share with a BCNU member who was I WOULD LIKE TO HUMBLY THANK NOW THEY helping me experiences that I had only Bonnie Christie, Adriane Gear and BCNU SEE HOPE shared with my therapist for a reason. for the work and courage to get this issue Reading the article brought me relief dealt with. The knowledge of this reality but stirred up the anger I have felt after brought me to tears. being denied for such a flimsy, pathetic and cruel reason. In 2012, after 25 years working in a leukemia/bone marI am happy to say I found meaningful work as an educarow transplant unit, I was finally diagnosed with post-trautor within the health-care system as I do so love being a matic stress disorder by my GP, my psychologist and a nurse. I am so grateful that no other nurses will have to go psychiatrist. through what I went through with WorkSafeBC. Thank I had done what Ms. Christie had done and moved from you again for those who made this happen. place to place trying to deal with my anxiety and nightmares. But it didn’t work. I was off work for two and half years during which time I fought both WorkSafeBC and Susan Johnston, RN Vancouver the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal for minor




Nurses celebrate mental injury legislation win


MORE CLIMATE ACTION NEEDED Re: Young nurses take action on climate change (July-August 2019) I WAS VERY GLAD TO see an article about climate change (crisis/emergency) in the recent Update Magazine. But I am upset that it was near the back of the issue. I feel quite strongly that it should have been on the cover. I commend the students for their hard work. I am late to the game of climate activism, having only started in earnest six months


ago. The article reports the students helped with the BCNU position statement on climate change in 2017. I am looking forward to seeing this position statement when it comes out. Much action needs to be taken, and quickly. We need to make an immediate call to all BCNU members across the province and ask them to make the personal


choice not to fly in airplanes if possible. We also need to subsidize and support home care nurses to use electric vehicles. We are very lucky here in BC that our electricity does not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Let’s build on that! I have tried lobbying the provincial government and working with federal politicians, and I am not

getting very far. If BCNU could do some lobbying to stop greenhouse gas emissions, that would be greatly appreciated. Penny Brown, RN Sechelt

Please join our open forum and send your letters to:

EMPOWERING NURSES Province-wide meetings provide progress report on NBA contract implementation


HE IMPLEMENTATION of the 2019-2022 Nurses’ Bargaining Association provincial collective agreement is a collaborative process that’s seen the NBA and health employers working together to develop effective strategies that address nurses’ workplace concerns and promote problem solving at the local level. Working groups have been busy working throughout the year since the contact was ratified in January, and implementation plans have been developed for many of the negotiated articles of agreement. BCNU President Christine Sorensen and CEO Umar Sheikh are now travelling the province and meeting with members in each of the union’s 16 regions to provide a report on what’s been achieved to date. “These fall meetings and worksite visits are an opportunity for me to get out and meet with members where they are, listen to their concerns and share important information about the work we are doing on their behalf,” says Sorensen. She adds that the meetings are also an

“It’s important that nurses feel empowered by their collective agreement.” BCNU President Christine Sorensen

opportunity to remind nurses about the new contact language that now applies. “There are more than 35 contract improvements of note in the new NBA contract, all of which can empower nurses to advocate for themselves and their patients, and make autonomous decisions as professionals,” she says. Members unable to attend the information sessions are encouraged to attend their BCNU regional meeting or complete one of our online surveys. The NBA Health Benefits Survey is asking for feedback on what matters most to members when it comes to a redesign of their current extended health benefits package (see article on page 14).

CONSULTING MEMBERS Nurses are receiving information and providing feedback at meetings across the province. Clockwise from top left, Angela Achoba, Tammy Saunders, Joanne Kuo, Rochelle Neid, Martha Cresswell, and Debbie Andreychuk, Candi DeSousa, Seone Fuller and Leeanne Singbeil.

Discussions are also taking place regarding union leave. A survey will be sent to all BCNU members in December following the report-out sessions with the goal of obtaining member feedback and ensuring the long-term sustainability of union leave. “I’m looking forward to hearing from members in every corner of the province,” says Sorensen. “It’s important that nurses feel empowered by their collective agreement and take advantage of the language that’s been bargained for safe patient care.” •



GETTING IT RIGHT NBA benefits consultation process now underway


HE 2019-2022 NURSES’ Bargaining Association (NBA) provincial contract includes a memorandum of agreement that speaks to the need for a more sustainable extended health benefits plan. This agreement is an unprecedented opportunity for nurses to determine the terms of a new plan that will serve all NBA members well into the future. Over the past six months, an NBA Benefits Review Working Group has been analyzing data provided by our benefit provider, Pacific Blue Cross, and is using this information to inform the first phase of a member consultation process that is now underway. BCNU is reaching out to all members this fall so that we can better understand nurses’ experience with the existing benefit plan and find out what matters most to them when it comes to

their health benefits. We’re asking members to participate in an online survey where they can tell us about how they currently use their health benefits, which benefits they would like to see improved, and what they would like to see in a future benefits plan.


The survey results will be complemented by feedback gathered through province-wide face-to-face meetings hosted by BCNU President Christine Sorensen and CEO Umar Sheikh. The face-to-face meetings are part of the agendas of full-day regional gatherings currently being held to update and inform members about progress the union is making regarding implementation of the NBA provincial collective agreement.

Meeting attendees will receive an in-depth presentation about their current benefit plan design. This includes everything from what is currently covered to how it is costed by the employer. By having a better understanding of their current plan, members will more likely be able to provide creative, insightful feedback on how it could be redesigned to best serve future members’ needs. The BCNU website is a source of information for nurses unable to attend a meeting in their region. Links to the current benefit plan information, contract language and a glossary of terms are available for members to review.


The NBA Benefits Review Working Group is aiming for a consultative process that is comprehensive and inclusive. All members are encouraged to take the online survey and those who have questions or who are seeking clarification can email the working group at


TAKE THE NBA HEALTH BENEFITS SURVEY TODAY A new online survey is now available to all members who wish to provide input on the kinds of changes they would like to see made to the Nurses’ Bargaining Association health benefits plan. The survey closes on Nov. 28. Results will be used to inform the development of benefit plan redesign options the union will present to members in 2020. You can find a link to this confidential survey behind the member portal, under a new tab called “Surveys.” Visit and participate today!



OUR PENSION. OUR FUTURE. It’s time for nurses to have a say about how their pensions are managed Success will be measured in the new year, when nurses will be presented with new benefit plan options for further review ahead of a membership-wide vote. The survey data analysis and the extensive member feedback we receive this fall will help to inform the options that nurses are given. The goal is the adoption of an extended health benefits plan that provides the greatest potential benefit to the greatest number of members. But until then, no changes will be made to the benefit plan before January 1, 2021. •

WORKING GROUP PRINCIPLES Throughout the consultation process, the joint NBA - employer Health Benefits Review Working Group will ensure the following principles are met: • continuing 100 percent employer-paid benefits • achieving a sustainable program that protects nurses’ benefits • increasing flexibility to address individual needs • ensuring greater individual decisionmaking over benefits

COUNTING ON RETIREMENT SECURITY Nurses’ need for greater control over decisions about their pensions and their futures is driving the work of the NBA Pension Review Committee.


URSES’ PENSIONS ARE something to be proud of. They’re a hard-won benefit and one of the more tangible examples of how membership in a union gives workers an advantage when it comes to safeguarding their security and standard of living in their old age. Defined-benefit public sector pensions also bring peace of mind. Joint employer-employee contributions are pooled and invested so that plan members receive a guaranteed lifetime, monthly pension when they retire. That’s why the news that 3,000 BCNU members received in March of last year was so unsettling. Upon opening their annual pension statements, these registered psychiatric and community nurses learned that the Public Service Pension Plan (PSPP) that they belong to had made substantial plan design changes and increased the number of years they must work to get an unreduced pension. BCNU President Christine Sorensen is one of these members. “I still recall unsealing the envelope, reading the statement and discovering that my earliest unreduced retirement age was raised from 55 to 58,” she says. “I couldn’t believe it – there was no consultation and no warning.” Sorensen is not alone. Changes occurring within public sector pension plans could also affect the majority of BC’s nurses who are members of the Municipal Pension Plan (MPP), and speak to the need for nurses to have more control over the governance of their pension plan in order to protect them

from the very reductions in benefits that most PSPP members will suffer. The MPP is one of four major defined benefit plans that are governed by their own boards. The MPP is the largest and most diverse, with over 309,000 active, inactive and retired members in BC. Members come from a variety of sectors across the province, including health care, municipalities and school districts. Nurses, unlike teachers and college instructors who have control over the governance of their own plans, are one group within this multi-sector plan that serves a range of workers and retirees with varying income levels and needs. NBA negotiators felt this governance arrangement could put MPP nurses at risk and raised these concerns during provincial bargaining last year. “BCNU decided that we needed to have a review of the governance of nurses’ pensions because we believe that nurses should have a meaningful say in any decisions that affect them,” explains Sorensen. Nurses’ wariness over pension security under the current MPP governance structure is borne from recent experience. The case of the NBA one-percent fund is a perfect example of how nurses’ efforts to proactively manage and shape their pension plan design have been frustrated, and helps explain their desire for effective control over decisions about their money and their pensions. In the spirit of prudent, long-term planning, during 2006 NBA contract negotiations BCNU was successful in negotiating this



fund, which diverted one percent of the 2008 market adjustment wage increase to a fund designed to provide members with better inflation protection and post-retirement benefits – entitlements public pension plans aren’t obligated to provide. “At the time BCNU was looking at increased costs for retirees from a longterm view – we were thinking about all of our members, especially our younger nurses, and how they might be impacted by a reduction in inflation protection and the erosion of benefits,” Sorensen says. “We wanted to provide our members with a more secure benefit into retirement.” Unfortunately, after negotiations, and in spite of the language that was bargained, the MPP Board rejected the money the fund would generate to ensure inflation protection for NBA members in the MPP. Revenue from the one-percent

fund was then used to fund the Retire Benefit Fund (RBF) that was started in 2008 in response to Municipal and Public Service pension plan reductions to retiree benefit premium subsidies. The Retiree Benefit Program received its first funding in 2009 and has been reimbursing up to 50 percent of the Medical Service Plan premiums pension plan retirees have had to pay – premiums that the provincial government will fully eliminate next year. Assets in the RBF could provide nurses with full inflation protection. Unfortunately, this is something MPP rules will not allow, even as the MPP board voted to cap members’ inflation protection at 2.1 percent – below the rate of real inflation. It’s for reasons like these that NBA negotiators put pension plan governance on the bargaining table. There is no question that nurses should have control over decisions

about their pensions and their future. The negotiated NBA Pension Review Committee is currently assessing several options that could better serve nurses’ interests. It’s an exploratory process that’s ongoing. An actuarial analysis will inform any recommendations it makes, including the possible creation of a Nurses’ Pension Plan that’s co-governed by nurses and their employers. Any recommended changes to the status quo will be put to a vote open to all active and retired members. And regardless of any governance changes, nurses’ defined benefit pension will continue to be administered by the BC Pension Corporation and investments managed by the BC Investment Management Corporation. Current retirees who are MPP members will also enjoy legal protections ensuring there are no changes to their pension as a result of this process. •

A GOVERNANCE DESIGN CHALLENGE The majority of BCNU members belong to the Municipal Pension Plan (MPP) and some BCNU members belong to the Public Service Pension Plan (PSPP). These are two of the four major public sector defined benefit plans that are administered by the BC Pension Corporation. Pension plan Members





Employed by

Publicly funded post-secondary institutions in BC

All school districts across BC

BC’s public sector (provincial government)

Several sectors including municipal government, health authorities and school districts

Union that can veto negative changes to pension rules

Federation of PostSecondary Educators

BC Teachers’ Federation

BC Government and Services Employees’ Union


Nurses in plan



3,000 (2.5%)

60,000 (18%)

Unlike the other BC public pension plan members, MPP and PSPP members work across sectors and are represented by many unions. This has meant that majority group members within the MPP and PSPP, and the unions that represent them, are able to shape the plans’ direction and control decisions on issues such as inflation protection and retiree benefits. PSPP nurses were not consulted prior to that plan’s decision last year to change the rules that allow members to retire with an unreduced pension at 55. The vast majority of these members now have to wait until 60 to retire with an unreduced pension . Any similar changes to the MPP must be approved by the plan’s 16-member Board, and only one member is appointed by BCNU. This means the interests of lower-paid MPP members represented by other unions have the potential to trump nurses’ interests.




PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST WorkSafeBC undergoes formal review with the goal of becoming more ‘worker-centric’ FINAL PHASE BCNU representatives participated in a Sept. 3 focus group held at the union’s head office as part of the Patterson Review’s assessment of BC’s workers’ compensation system. From left: BCNU WorkSafeBC advocates Guinevere Loi, Zuleika Gedeon and Kerry Birch, BCNU director of occupational health and safety Moninder Singh, reviewers Janet Patterson and Jim Parker, BCNU executive councillor Adriane Gear, WorkSafeBC advocate Gregory Rabin, BCNU manager of occupational health and safety Lani deHek and BCNU communications officer Katharine Kitts.


ETTING INJURED while on the job is an unfortunate and often unexpected experience for many workers in BC. And there is no shortage of stories about the WorkSafeBC compensation claim approval process being more painful than the injury itself. But now, for the first time in 17 years, a formal and independent review of the entire workers’ compensation system could bring much-needed changes to better support injured workers across the province. The review comes on the heels of the provincial government’s announcement in April that now sees nurses included in the list of occupations that have the presumption of a workplace mental injury when adjudicating mental disorder claims. Nurses celebrated the decision, but the WorkSafeBC claims process continues to make it difficult for those in need of assistance.

The ambitious job of reviewing WorkSafeBC has been led by board reviewers Janet Patterson and Jim Parker, who both bring years of experience to the table. Patterson is a retired labour lawyer who practised in the province’s workers’ compensation system and Parker has helped workers from various sectors navigate the claims process. Over several months the Patterson Review collected mountains of feedback from people who work in a number of industries, including health care, about their personal experience with the WorkSafeBC compensation process and asked them how they think it could be improved. Feedback was provided by a number of BCNU members who took the time to submit their recommendations to the review on what they think needs to happen to make the compensation process more employee-centric. Members shared their thoughts by

participating in an online questionnaire or attending several public hearings held across the province in June. BCNU encouraged members to provide feedback after the provincial government officially announced the WorkSafeBC review in May. The union’s occupational health and safety department and its WorkSafeBC advocates, who specialize in assisting members and their claims, also developed an in-depth report on the state of WorkSafeBC as a whole. The extensive 50-page submission examined the industry hazards for nurses and other health-care workers and highlighted numerous recommendations and policy changes BCNU would like to see implemented when it comes to processing claims. Many of these recommendations focused on code of conduct practices, the length of time it can take to investigate and process a claim, the surveillance process and the overall culture at WorkSafeBC.





The Patterson Review also invited BCNU to participate in a June 6 in-person hearing in Victoria. BCNU executive councillor for health and safety Adriane Gear and a team of union occupational health and safety officers gave a presentation on the work BCNU has been doing to help improve nurses’ working conditions by highlighting the numerous violent incidents that take place in acute, community, residential and other types of healthcare settings. During the presentation, Gear took time to highlight BCNU’s commitment to keep nurses safe through increased awareness, violence prevention measures, and ensuring the principles, tools and guidelines that make up the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety are implemented in workplaces across the province. She also acknowledged BCNU’s hardfought win to have nurses included in the list of eligible occupations that have the presumption of a workplace mental injury, but says more needs to be done to ensure that workers who make mental health claims are treated fairly. “While the changes outlined by the provincial government in April have been positive, workers suffering from work-related mental disorders still face a higher bar to compensation that those suffering from work-related physical injuries,” states Gear. “We believe the current ‘predominant cause’ test for sig-

nificant work-related stressors creates a disparity between those seeking compensation for psychological injuries and those suffering from physical injuries under the same compensation system.” She adds that it’s more common for physical injuries to be compensable than mental disorder claims. “For a physical injury to be compensable, the worker must establish the workplace incident was more than a trivial or insignificant aspect of the injury, but need not be the sole cause of the injury,” she explains. “However, for mental disorder claims, the predominant cause test requires a higher bar for a worker to have their claim allowed. We believe this is discriminatory against workers suffering from psychological injuries.” Gear’s presentation included an anonymous first-hand account from a nurse who worked in Surrey Memorial Hospital’s psychiatry unit and who supported patients with acute psychiatric disorders and severe emotional problems. The Patterson Review was told how this nurse was almost brought to tears after a patient swore at her, hurled insults and started to become aggressive. After enduring numerous similar incidents with the same patient, she began experiencing panic attack symptoms and felt nauseous and dizzy. Despite this, WorkSafeBC denied this nurses’ claim after deciding there was no evidence the patient had tried to intimidate or threaten her. Gear explains that it is stories like

“It’s time to make the necessary changes to the entire process so that it better reflects the needs and interests of all injured workers.” BCNU executive councillor Adriane Gear



these, which may not seem as dramatic or horrific as others, that are all too common for nurses. “Unfortunately, it’s typically only the horrific workplace incidents that are currently accepted under the mental disorders policy,” she says. “We recommend that WorkSafeBC treat mental disorder claims the same way that physical injuries are treated. It is our position the current mental disorder policies create systemic barriers for injured workers, resulting in injured workers not being able to access the workers’ compensation benefits legislated to support and assist them.”


The optimism over finally having the opportunity to focus on the hurdles that employees experience when navigating WorkSafeBC was dampened after a group of 46 employer organizations representing the bulk of BC’s business community announced in August that it would be pulling out of the review, complaining it was biased. The business forum which represents a range of employers across all economic sectors, including health care, is fearful that changes to workers’ compensation could increase their costs. The group has also claimed the review lacks objectivity, despite the assurance of Labour Minister Harry Bains who, in a letter to the Council of Construction Associations in June said the reviewers “were committed to improving worker navigation of injury claims” and “not to make wholesale changes to the workers’ compensation system that employers fund.” Gear says these employers’ decision to pull out of the process is a clear indication that many are used to having complete control and aren’t willing to engage in a review process if there is an appearance of concern for workers’ welfare. “It’s a ‘my way or the highway’ type

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION SYSTEM REVIEW 2019 The independent Patterson Review identified several issues of concern during its public consultation. Key areas of interest to BCNU include:

“We recommend that WorkSafeBC treat mental disorder claims in the same way that physical injuries are treated.” BCNU executive councillor Adriane Gear

of thinking,” she says. “I don’t understand why so many employers still don’t believe that prioritizing the health and well-being of their employees should be their primary interest.” In 1996, the NDP government of the day established a Royal Commission to study Workers’ Compensation. But the commission’s 1999 recommendations were shelved after the BC Liberals were elected in 2001. In fact, the Liberals enacted a new Workers’ Compensation Act in 2002 that incorporated recommendations from many of the same employers involved in the recent pull out. In early September, as the review entered its final stages, Patterson and Parker conducted a focus group with Gear and BCNU director of occupational health and safety Moninder Singh and BCNU WorkSafeBC advocates. The meeting provided an opportunity for the review to present the issues it identified as important or urgent in the course of its work over the previous three months. The focus group discussion also acknowledged the “deep fix” that’s needed in the system, and agreed that for too long workers have had dreadful experiences when filing claims and getting

compensation. The issues the Patterson Review has identified (see sidebar) clearly reveal an obvious need to listen to the worker and be proactive when providing treatment and support, especially in the early stages. All too often, the worker is left to manage alone, until the situation gets to a point where a claim is required. The final assessment of the Patterson Review is due to be provided to the government as this issue of Update Magazine goes to print. Once it is publicly available it will be essential reading for anyone who’s had difficulties navigating the WorkSafeBC compensation process, including the many nurses who have received injuries while caring for patients, and doing the job they love to do. “It is well known that nurses and health-care workers have among the highest injury rates in the province and face specific industry hazards attributed to patient handling,” says Gear. “Many of these people have had to jump through unnecessary hoops after they’ve been injured, just to be heard. It’s time to make the necessary changes to the entire process so that it better reflects the needs and interests of all injured workers.” •

Changing the Workers Compensation Act and/or policy 1. Ensuring a duty to fairly investigate and obtain enough evidence to make well-rounded decisions 2. Including a code of conduct to help set service standards 3. Providing improved benefits to workers (i.e. 100% net, no CPP disability offset) 4. Allowing the Board to re-open and reconsider its own decisions at any time 5. Paying interest on retroactive compensation awards 6. Allowing the Workers Compensation Appeal Tribunal to reconsider its own decisions 7. Amending the mental health claim process so psychological injuries are treated the same as physical injuries 8. Allowing workers to choose their own practitioner 9. Improving vocational rehabilitation language 10. Amending loss of earnings assessment calculations to improve pensions Assisting disadvantaged groups Recommendations discussed include: 1. Providing special services to support vulnerable workers (e.g., navigators and ambassadors) 2. Engaging with Indigenous groups to develop cultural competencies 3. Creating special provisions to address claims and compensation barriers for temporary foreign workers 4. Making the Fair Practice Office more independent and effective Developing new concepts in BC compensation Broader solutions that may improve the compensation system include: 1. Developing preventive pre-injury risk management to provide services to workers developing symptoms associated with a physical or psychological condition related to work prior to their becoming disabled 2. Developing the capacity for independent medical evidence and effective resolution of medical disputes. This may include a system that allows Board medical advisers to liaise with treating practitioners to develop effective treatment plans 3. Developing an informal process to resolve medical disputes 4. Considering a new WorkSafeBC pension framework to better address functional loss and loss of earnings awards




MUCH-NEEDED CARE An aging population and growing resident acuity means more investments in long-term care are needed so that nurses like Daniela Smitlener can provide seniors with the care they need.


STRATEGY BCNU is calling for coordinated action on seniors’ care



here’s a demographic shift taking place across the country, and as the population continues to age, there are growing calls for governments to acknowledge the increasing demands on long-term care facilities and other areas of the health-care system that are feeling the pressure. Canada’s population is rapidly aging – a trend that will continue for the next couple of decades. Our senior population – those aged 65 or older – is expected to climb to 10 million by 2037, an increase of 68 percent.




WAITING FOR LONGTERM CARE IN BC BC’s OFFICE OF THE SENIORS Advocate annual Monitoring Seniors Services reports provide a running snapshot of the status of seniors’ services in BC – including long-term care. The following numbers are taken from the office’s most recent report published in Dec. 2018. On March 31, 2018, the number of people on the waitlist increased 7% over the previous year to 1,379; 1,039 were waiting in the community and 340 were waiting for transfer from a hospital. 1500










110 150

92 99



Mar 2017

Mar 2018








The average wait time for people on the waitlist on March 31, 2018 was 138 days ranging between 41 days in Fraser Health and 282 days in Northern Health. Health Authority

Number on the waitlist

Average wait time (days)
















Source: Monitoring Seniors Services 2018. Office of the Seniors Advocate



This demographic shift is being felt in BC, where projections indicate that by 2031 one-in-four people will be over 65. This is nearly five percent higher than the Canadian average. Questions are already being raised about what this will mean for health care in the province, and for the nurses who play a vital role in promoting the health and well-being of seniors every day. The BC Nurses’ Union is stepping up efforts to raise awareness among policy makers and the public about the importance of investing in senior’s care now and into the future. The challenging conditions in most of the province’s long-term care facilities are just one indication of the need to do more to ensure that seniors get the care they need. Currently, the majority of long-term care facilities aren’t anywhere close to meeting patient care targets set out by the provincial government. And nurses are saying it’s increasingly difficult to provide safe patient care. “We know that most facilities around the province are unable to provide the daily average of 3.36 hours of direct care per resident, set as a goal by the provincial government,” says BCNU President Christine Sorensen. “While our nurses take pride in playing a vital role in promoting the health and well-being of seniors, the erosion of health support services is making it increasingly difficult to succeed.” For nurses working in BC’s longterm care sector, it’s a hard reality that constantly tests their ability to provide quality resident care. Chronic underfunding, short staffing and heavy workloads plague an already overrun system, and that’s taking a toll on BCNU members who work in the sector. Recruitment and retention challenges continue to exist everywhere, especially in smaller, rural communities around the province. Patient acuity has also shifted, and

We are concerned about the lack of attention this demographic often receives.” BCNU President Christine Sorensen

seniors’ health care needs are becoming more complex. For example, nine seniors are diagnosed with dementia every hour in Canada. And in 2015 there were over 61,000 people in BC living with dementia.


BCNU’s commitment to seniors and long-term care nurses comes in many different forms. The union has developed a senior’s strategy working group consisting of elected members and researchers. The group meets monthly to discuss priorities and strategies on how to best shine a light on the needs in long-term care. BCNU’s regional chairs marked National Seniors Day on Oct. 1 by visiting long-term care facilities in every union region in the province, dropping off chocolates and thanking long-term care members for the valuable work they do every day. And on a national level, BCNU is one of many organizations, including the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions and the Canadian Nurses Association, that are calling for a national seniors strategy that would see the federal government play a central role to help address seniors’ health-care needs across the continuum of care (see sidebar: long-term care just one part of the solution).

NATIONAL SENIORS STRATEGY “A national seniors strategy demands a coordinated set of federal, provincial and municipal policies and programs that appropriately address the needs and concerns of seniors across the country,” says Sorensen. “We are concerned about the lack of attention this demographic often receives by the government. The statistics all point in the same direction – we need a plan in place to ensure BC’s and the rest of the country’s rapidly aging population will be taken care of.” Investing in seniors’ care is also one of BCNU’s top priorities in the federal election. Work is underway to create dialogue with all current and prospective MPs on how they plan to improve care and support for seniors. “Our long-term care nurses are already under pressure to provide care under unrealistic expectations,” says Sorensen. “How will the candidates from every party seeking to form the new federal government work with the provinces and communities to manage these needs over the next decade?” Sorensen notes that improving seniors’ care also means supporting integrated primary and community care networks that provide care closer to home. BCNU is currently working with health employers to ensure that nurses play a central role in shaping these networks and providing the practice supports that are needed to elevate standards of care. “This is something BCNU will continue to advocate for,” says Sorensen. “Effective primary and community care networks allow for people to live at home longer, and they take the pressure off emergency departments and long-term care facilities. In order to take care of our aging population, decision makers will have to work closer with health providers to ensure we are all working towards the same goal – provide the best care for our seniors. It’s what they deserve.” •

Long-term care just one part of the solution When it comes to addressing seniors’ health, the key issues and areas of concern vary across the continuum of care and differ from province to province. That’s why the call for an effective national seniors strategy contains proposals that focus on care throughout the health-care system – with national standards for long-term care being just one part of the solution.

SOCIAL DETERMINANTS OF HEALTH Efforts to improve wellness and prevention must go beyond the health-care system to encompass the life factors that shape each person’s overall health and well-being. Income security, safe housing and access to good food and social connections are all issues to be addressed by a national seniors strategy.

PRIMARY CARE An effective primary care system is crucial for keeping seniors out of hospitals. Primary care providers can manage the complex needs of seniors better when integrated with specialist care and given greater training in geriatrics and palliative care. Stronger links between providers and the community services their patients need would also help.

HOME CARE AND COMMUNITY SUPPORT Looking after seniors at home is cost-effective and what most people want. But care and funding home support vary greatly across Canada, and most care is provided by unpaid family and friends. A national seniors strategy should offer families more support such as tax breaks, leave and respite.

ACUTE AND SPECIALTY CARE Acute-care hospital stays are often preceded by long waits for specialists and treatment. After, poor coordination between the acute and community sectors often traps seniors in hospital, awaiting a long-term care bed or home care. These poor transitions between levels of care are known to put patients at risk. A national seniors strategy must emphasize better coordination of care.

LONG-TERM CARE Most residents of long-term care are over 85 and frail. Many have considerable cognitive and health challenges. As Canadians live longer, demand for long-term care increases, but older care homes are not designed for today’s high-need patients. Long-term care is also expensive. A national seniors strategy should include national standards of care and a plan for funding it.

PALLIATIVE CARE Demand for end-of-life care that focuses on quality of life and death, rather than treatment, is increasingly in demand, but access to it is limited and poorly coordinated. A team approach and more training for health-care providers, supported by national standards, would increase availability.




COMING OUT TO CARE A nurse’s personal journey gives her an appreciation of the stigmatization and isolation queer seniors face – and the need for inclusive care

A LIFE LIVED FULLY Vancouver nurse Nadia Rebecca Alteme’s service on the Board of QMUNITY, BC’s queer resource centre, has given her an opportunity to fully explore life as a biracial, queer woman.



n the second Tuesday of every month QMUNITY, BC’s queer resource centre, hosts a peer-led support group for questioning women interested in exploring queer identities, relationships and communities.

The group is called “Dear John, I love Jane.” It was here, on a warm summer evening in 2015, that Nadia Rebecca Alteme found herself seated among a gathering of kindly strangers—each with their own story of arrival. “The chairs were arranged in a circle with everyone facing each other. I was just sitting there waiting for it to begin,” Alteme recalls. “I was so nervous and scared I didn’t know what to expect.” For months prior to that moment, Alteme had been feeling adrift, questioning her identity and her sexuality. “There would be days when I felt like I didn’t really know who I was anymore. I remember one day in particular when I was lying on the sofa, in a puddle, not sure what to do, what direction to go in.”

Alteme had only recently completed the registered nurse program at BCIT, along with specialty training in emergency nursing. “I got a job soon after graduating,” she says. “I knew something about triage – about prioritizing the needs of others – but I had forgotten how to prioritize myself, to figure out what I needed.” That afternoon on the sofa was a turning point. “I remember my friend coming over to where I was, prone and sobbing, and just listening to me try to make sense of what was going on,” recounts Alteme. “She had an incredibly open heart, and it was she who suggested that I connect with someone at QMUNITY who would be able to help me make sense of the turmoil inside of me.” And so Alteme made her way to the Tuesday

group to figure out just what it meant to admit to oneself that they might very well love Jane more than John. The daughter of an ItalianCanadian mother and HaitianCanadian father, Alteme has an intimate understanding of how an identity can be a ceaseless source of vexation. “Being bi-racial, being mixed, you never feel like you truly belong,” she remarks. Raised in Montreal by her Italian grandparents and immersed in the language (which she retains in fragments), Alteme later moved to Toronto where she began attending community events organized by various Black organizations. “I would look forward to going to a party, the music, whatever, but I never felt like there was a space to be who I




was. I had a kind of imposter syndrome,” she recalls. “Every time I went somewhere, I was always stepping into my discomfort. Not Black enough – me this Italian-speaking, bi-racial woman. I felt looked at but not seen.” In 2011 Alteme settled on the West Coast. She initially found it difficult to fit in. “It’s taken time for me to find my place here, but nursing has helped,” she reflects. “When I first started practising, I finally began to feel like I was able to be more the person that I am in my life – to be more like myself through the work that I do.” It was this desire to align her true self with the self she presented in public that propelled Alteme through QMUNITY’s doors and toward a new kind of life. For over 40 years QMUNITY has served as a welcoming space for LGBTQ2S+ people to come together, guide and support each other. Alteme says meeting other women who were also questioning their sexuality enabled her to embrace the person she felt she was becoming. “After 15 years of being married to my husband and best friend, I moved out. I felt like I was experiencing adolescence again – except now I was in my late 30s.” For the first few months Alteme struggled to find her equilibrium. “I was a new nurse and I had just come out. I felt like I wasn’t nurse enough or gay enough.” Although often exhausted, she continued to attend the Tuesday group and welcomed the solace and support that others offered. Her social circle soon began to expand. “I started to realize that in spite of my own discomfort I had to learn to have empathy for myself and for others – all those whom I was caring for,” says Alteme. Over time she reports being able to cultivate a deeper sense of calm. “I became a more present and authentic nurse.” This January Alteme joined the QMUNITY Board of Directors. The organization is in the process of



I was a new nurse and I had just come out. I felt like I wasn’t nurse enough or gay enough.” Nadia Rebecca Alteme

expanding its outreach and Alteme saw this as an opportunity to help it do a better job of connecting with QTBIPOC*, women, sex workers and other marginalized populations. “I’ve felt for a while that I wanted to give back and this seemed like one way to do just that.” Of the many programs QMUNITY hosts in support of a diverse LGBTQ2S+ community, Alteme is particularly enthusiastic about those offered to queer seniors, in part because coming-out later in life has made her aware of the importance of having access to welcoming spaces no matter one’s age. “So many LGBTQ2S+ seniors have experienced stigmatization and isolation, and suffered trauma as a consequence of their identity,” she says, noting that it was only in 1969 that Canada decriminalized homosexuality. Alteme says she often thinks about what life might be like for her in her later years. “After having to redefine everything about myself, I hope I’ll still be free to explore my identity as I age.”


Today, sexism, racism, and ableism can often conspire to constrain the lives of queer or questioning older adults, lesbian and gay seniors, aging bisexual women, trans men and two-spirit elders. The lives of many are fraught * Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous people of colour

with difficulty as the pernicious effects of ageism compound a lifetime of discrimination based on sexuality or gender identity. All too often, a life lived openly is once again closeted when a senior moves into care, or after the death of a long-term partner that suddenly signals the loss of sexual identity. Against a backdrop of heterosexist and transphobic violence, loneliness, social isolation, poverty and lack of appropriate care and support, it is no wonder that a lifetime of discrimination and being marked by difference can have an irreparable impact on LGBTQ2S+ seniors’ physical and mental health and well-being. This reality was acknowledged recently with the Public Health Agency of Canada’s release of a national dementia strategy that specifically recognizes the need for equitable care for populations that face barriers and are at higher risk. The strategy is informed by evidence that finds lesbian, gay and bisexual adults may experience delays in dementia diagnosis and difficulties finding support due to stigma and social marginalization. The evidence also shows that transgender people face additional barriers to health services, with significant numbers reporting that they avoid medical care for fear of being mistreated. Government is slowly beginning to apply an equity lens to social policy decisions and acknowledge the barriers

to equality that continue to infringe on LGBTQ2S+ seniors’ human rights. In May, Ottawa announced funding of over $193,000 for two projects that will support the social integration of LGBTQ2S+ seniors in Canada. One will see University of Guelph research developing a “promising practices” model to assist community organi-

zations to better engage and include LGBTQ2S+ seniors and the other will support the ongoing work of queer resource organizations in Winnipeg and Edmonton.


The human rights of LGBTQ2S+ seniors’ that are only now being fully

SUPPORTING INCLUSIVE SENIORS’ CARE BCNU HAS A HISTORY OF SUPPORTING ORGANIZATIONS THAT SHARE OUR VALUES, enrich our communities and advance our human rights and equity efforts. This support was on display recently when the union donated $5,000 to QMUNITY ahead of National Seniors’ Day. QMUNITY is a non-profit provincial resource centre that works to improve queer, trans, and two-spirit lives and provide a safer space for LGBTQ2S+ people and their allies to fully self-express while feeling welcome and included. BCNU’s donation will support QMUNITY’s seniors and older adults drop in program, which allows folks 55 and older to find inclusion, belonging and meaningful connections. “This particular contribution fits well into BCNU’s giving priorities,” says BCNU President Christine Sorensen, “as it will support seniors who are also members of the LGBTQ2S+ community.” For the first time in history, there are more Canadians aged 65 and older than children under 14. There are considerable concerns on how our health-care system will manage the growing number of patients while remaining open and inclusive to all seniors requiring care. “We hope members will join us in asking the federal government to establish a national seniors’ care strategy that addresses the challenges facing our aging population,” says Sorensen. National Seniors’ Day is celebrated every October 1. It’s an occasion where all Canadians can join in celebrating older adults and acknowledge the life-long contributions our nation’s seniors have made and continue to make to their families, communities and society. • WELCOME DONATION BCNU’s provincial executive committee presents a $5,000 donation to QMUNITY, BC’s queer resource centre. Left to right front: President Christine Sorensen, executive councillor Adriane Gear, treasurer Sharon Sponton, QMUNITY executive director Osmel B. Guerra Maynes. Back row: BCNU Vice President Aman Grewal and executive councillor Chris Armeanu.

After having to redefine everything about myself, I hope I’ll still be free to explore my identity as I age.” Nadia Rebecca Alteme

acknowledged by the federal government have been central to the work of QMUNITY for the past four decades. The organization’s ongoing commitment to expand the reach of its initiatives to communities and people who may not have been well-served through existing services means that many more LGBTQ2S+ seniors will have the support they need to continue to live rich and fulfilling lives and to feel safe in their neighbourhoods and homes – and when receiving care. For Alteme, the opportunity to work with QMUNITY has opened up a space to more deeply consider what it means to live an authentic life as a bi-racial, queer woman at the beginning of her nursing career. “What we all need more, than anything else is, more room for compassion amongst ourselves as nurses, where there’s always a place for someone to say, ‘hey I’m human, I am having a rough time,’’’ she argues. “We need to allow ourselves to become more vulnerable and not have that used against us.” Find out more about QMUNITY at




A TIMELY CALL TO ACTION A Knapsack Full of Dreams: Memoirs of a Street Nurse Author: Cathy Crowe Publisher: Friesen Press Pages: 354 Price: $48.31 (paperback)

CATHY CROWE’S recently released memoir, A Knapsack Full of Dreams, is much more than an account of the 30 years she spent working as a street nurse and social justice advocate in downtown Toronto. It’s also a call to action, an appeal for readers to join her in the struggle to end poverty and homelessness in Canada. As a young nurse in the eighties, Crowe became increasingly involved in many of the progressive battles being fought to make Canada and the world a safer and healthier place for everyone. She marched for nuclear disarmament, spoke out against the possible return of Canada’s death penalty, advocated for the environment, fought against the move to privatize health care, organized homeless camps, and delivered quality health care to Toronto’s poorest citizens. “Cathy Crowe grew up aspiring to be a good hospi-


tal nurse like her mother, but ended up doing hard political nursing on Toronto’s streets,” says Canadian journalist and author Linda McQuaig. “Her tale is powerful and affecting, and reminds us of the gross injustice we’ve committed as a society in leaving so many people without a home.” As an outspoken but always compassionate street nurse, Crowe delivered care to her patients in alleys, ravines, homeless shelters, highway underpasses, and outreach clinics. Wherever she travelled, Crowe always carried her supplies in a large, wellstocked black knapsack, which is now preserved in Ottawa, at the Canadian


Museum of History. Some of the contents of Crowe’s famous knapsack included energy bars, cans of Ensure, a thermometer, stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, flashlight, dressing materials, non-latex gloves, an N95 mask, tampons, socks, underwear, toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap, shampoo, lip balm, condoms and lubricants, Tums, an inhaler, Tiger Balm, and bus tickets to help people reach homeless shelters or clinics. “I was trying to provide the most basic things people needed,” Crowe writes, “whether it was soaking someone’s foot or getting them a new pair of pants or shoes or going with them to the hospital.” Crowe’s love and respect for the homeless individuals she helped shines through on every page of A Knapsack Full of Dreams. Many of her in-depth and graphic stories come from a diary she kept that detailed the pain and suffering she witnessed every day on the streets of Toronto. Crowe begins each chapter with a description of a film that inspired her through-

out her long career. For example, she introduces a chapter entitled Rich Man, Poor Man: Social Divides Equal Social Justice with a glowing review of Bethune: The Making of a Hero. The 1990 movie, starring Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren, followed the incredible story of Dr. Norman Bethune, a Canadian who worked as a doctor in the Spanish Civil War and later became a national hero in China for his medical service during the Sino-Japanese war. Crowe has been the subject, and executive producer, of several documentaries. She is also a recipient of numerous awards, including the Order of Canada and the prestigious International Human Rights and Nursing Award. Her book is more than just an account of her life or a retrospective of her career. “It’s a call to action,” she writes. “It’s a call for help – your help – in this national plight that sees so many people from so many walks of life without a safe place to sleep at night, a warm place to return to each day, a means to find employment or a place to cook food, care for their health, and uphold these basic needs for love and belonging.” •

2019 Member Communications Survey



CNU’s ELECTED leaders work hard on your behalf every day. With the support of our dedicated activists and the expertise of our staff, we are striving to make a difference in the lives of our members and the patients in their care. It’s critically important that members are also aware of the work BCNU is doing on behalf of all nurses, and of the resources and opportunities their union provides. Our communications efforts are designed to provide members with the information they need to feel engaged and empowered. From weekly eNews mailings, to social media posts and Update Magazine articles, BCNU uses a variety of communication channels to help keep members informed about the activities of their union. There is no better example of this than the information provided in advance of the January Nurses’ Bargaining Association provincial contract ratification vote. Over a

three-month period, we used the above channels and others to give members a comprehensive overview of the issues that informed NBA bargaining and a detailed explanation of how the new contract will be implemented and enforced. Following the successful ratification of the NBA contract, we commissioned the Mustel Group, a leading BC-based market research firm, to survey a cross-section of BCNU members to find out more about their communications needs and their perceptions of the union’s performance. It’s important for us to evaluate the work that we do and the services we provide in order to build trust and demonstrate to all members that they are being listened to and represented. We are also committed to making sure that BCNU communications are focused, relevant, and reflect the needs and interests of our members. We asked questions about which BCNU information channels members use, how often they access them and what they like or

dislike about them. The results of this member survey were compared against the results of previous communications surveys conducted in 2011, 13, 15 and 18. Mustel Group has now compiled and analyzed the survey results, some of which are published here. We will now be considering several measures to help improve members’ communication experience. These include continued use of BCNU’s eNews as a key communication method while being aware of email frequency; ensuring the BCNU website is user-friendly and mobile device compatible; building awareness and adoption of the BCNU member portal; and maintaining our use of Facebook and other social media to engage members of all ages. We will also continue to publish Update Magazine and explore ways to leverage interest in face-to-face interactions in the worksite between co-workers and stewards in order to strengthen member engagement. Consistent polling and consultation reflects BCNU’s desire to strive to do better. We will continue to listen in order to better understand members’ needs, provide better services, and ensure that all of our voices are heard.

METHODOLOGY The survey was conducted online and responses were gathered from more than 2,000 BCNU members. 1. Eligible respondents: RN, RPN and LPN members of BCNU, currently working and on-leave 2. Field dates: April 23 – May 14, 2019 3. Proportionate sampling across BCNU regions and data weighted to match BCNU regions 4. Margin of sampling error at a 95% level of confidence (or 19 times out of 20) 5. Total n=2,040+/-2.2%

Performance attributes rated good or excellent


standing up for the rights of members


competently and effectively supporting members


representing members


being visible in the workplace

PERFORMANCE RATING Overall, members provided positive feedback when responding to statements that measure the extent to which they perceive the organization to be capable and effective. More than half of members believe BCNU would do its best to help them, and in general older members feel more positive about their union. Members also told us that they would like to see BCNU be more visible in their worksite.




INFORMATION CHANNELS Overall, members’ increased use of digital communications as their main source of information about BCNU activities has continued since we began polling in 2011. Most members continue to say that emailed bulletins (eNews) are their main source of information about BCNU activities, followed by the BCNU website, Update Magazine, BCNU stewards, co-workers, BCNU bulletin boards and social media.

What is your main source of information about the activities that BCNU is involved in on your behalf ?

eNews/bulletins BCNU website


Update Magazine



BCNU stewards




BCNU bulletin boards


WEBSITE ACCESS Most members continue to rely on the BCNU website for information, with most visiting the site every few months. A growing number of survey respondents report encountering difficulties when using the website with a mobile device. The large majority of website visitors are now registered to access the BCNU member portal – up significantly from previous years. Have you ever visited the BCNU website?

95% Yes

Do you access the member portal?






% Don’t know

11% No

How often do you visit the BCNU website?


Only during bargaining



1-2 times/year


Every few months


(3-11 times/year)


At least once a month


Weekly or more

Social media


SOCIAL MEDIA USE The popularity of social media sites among BCNU members remains largely unchanged since 2015. Facebook remains the most popular, but the use of several other platforms, such as Instagram, has increased. Most survey respondents describe themselves as moderate social media users. Thinking about your use of social media, how would you describe yourself ?

Which, if any, social networking sites do you currently use? Facebook




















27% Avid


Light user

ELECTRONIC MAIL The number of members saying they currently receive BCNU eNews has increased significantly since 2013. This channel is now the most important way members receive information. Members who receive eNews also report reading them more frequently, and the majority of those feel that fewer than five emails per month is reasonable. Do you currently receive BCNU electronic news/bulletins by email?

93% Yes

What is a reasonable number of union news emails to receive in a month?





25% 5-9

2% _ >10

How frequently do you read them?


Almost every time


About half the time


Less than half the time







A CARING PATH SOMOUD NOUBANI CONTINUES IN HER MOTHER’S FOOTSTEPS GROWING UP AMIDST the gently rolling hills and sun-washed neighbourhoods of Amman, Jordan, Somoud Noubani was certain she’d have a career as a lawyer. “At school and with friends I was often fighting for myself with words and arguing for my beliefs and my rights as a girl – as a woman,” she recalls. As a child of refugees, she knew something about the ceaseless struggle for justice and a sense of place and belonging. But as it turned out, her pursuit of these goals happened not through law, but nursing and not in Jordan, but Canada. Noubani attributes her decision to pursue nursing to her mother, who told her harrowing stories of the family’s 1948 flight from their ancestral home in Jenin, Palestine, and sorrowful journey through a parched and politically unforgiving landscape. These stories were the backdrop of Noubani’s early years, and a near-constant reminder of how the decisions of politicians in far-away places can easily uproot the lives of so many. “What I remember most about these stories were the moments when my mother


SKILLED IMMIGRANT Burnaby Hospital’s Somoud Noubani has been practising in Canada since 2014. The experienced nurse brings a wealth of knowledge from her years working in hospitals in Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

would stop to help someone, an elder who could no longer walk or someone who needed their wound bandaged. She herself was just a child but she still had the presence of mind to help others.” It was these gestures of care that impressed themselves upon the young Noubani. “I started to seriously think that a career in a caring profession might make all the difference to someone in need.” Noubani graduated from nursing school in 1995 and


took a job at a military hospital in the south of Jordan, working in intensive care and the OR. She loved the work and felt privileged to be able to help others. But after a number of years she looked to broaden her horizons and began working in a hospital in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). “It was here, as manager of a diverse, international staff in the OR, that I was able to strengthen my nursing theory and practice and develop valuable leadership skills,” says Noubani. She also met

her husband, a Syrian of Palestinian origin—marrying him in 2008. The couple immigrated to Canada in 2011. It was a decision triggered by a number of factors, including the rapidly deteriorating political situation in Syria and the fact that her husband did not have permanent status in the UAE. “We had no choice, we had to leave while there was still a window of opportunity,” remembers Noubani. “And that feeling of stepping into the unknown – we didn’t know what to expect”. Noubani had been accepted into Canada as a skilled immigrant with a wealth of nursing experience. But she, like other internationally educated nurses, had to go through a number of bureaucratic processes before obtaining a licence to practise in British Columbia. “Every day without being able to nurse seemed like an eternity,” she says, recalling the bills to be paid and children to be fed. After working a succession of short-term service industry jobs and successfully completing her English language requirements, Noubani obtained her licence in October 2014 and began working at Burnaby General Hospital the following December. “I was very, very excited to finally begin my nursing career in Canada,” Noubani

recalls. “I was confident in my skills and open-hearted with my colleagues and co-workers.” But despite this openness, she says the first few months of work were some of the most difficult experiences of her life—due in large part to bullying and ill-treatment from co-workers.

“We had no choice, we had to leave while there was still a window of opportunity.” Somoud Noubani

At the time Noubani had no idea of her rights as a worker or union member. She hoped the abuse would be short-lived and focused instead on surviving her new job while avoiding those co-workers and ignoring their hurtful comments. “I just thought that if I kept my head down and just concentrated on doing my job then things would improve,” she says. But Noubani found that the negative experiences had begun to seep into life outside work – and the generalized anxiety she felt at work was beginning to reshape who she was at home and in her community. One day, Noubani decided to approach a sympathetic colleague for advice. “I wasn’t sure

what to do or what she would say but I knew that I needed help,” she says. The co-worker invited Noubani to speak with a BCNU representative about the issues she was facing. The meeting was the beginning of a crucial journey of self-discovery and an understanding of the union and her rights as a union member. “It was the first time I felt that things were going to be okay.” The support she received from her steward led Noubani to immerse herself in the work of the union, and in 2017 she became a steward herself, drawing on her personal experience to advocate for the rights of others while equipping members to speak up for themselves. “After all the help the union had given me, I wanted to give something back,” she explains, “and also let our members know that they have rights and should stand up for these whenever they can.” Noubani believes all nurses need a welcoming workplace to thrive – one that honours the richness of who they are, their past and their histories, and the skills and knowledge they carry with them from the many places they once called home. “I am so grateful for the opportunities I have enjoyed as a nurse,” she says. “Doing this work has allowed me to continue to advocate for the health and well-being of others and somehow continue in the footsteps of the journey my mom began so many years ago.” •

COMMUNICATING: ESSENTIAL SKILLS IS LANGUAGE GETTING IN THE WAY OF clear communication in your workplace? Do you ever find yourself searching for the right way to say something? Consider attending Communicating: Essential Skills. This three-day course is designed to help members whose first language is not English. The course focuses on the ability to communicate confidently with managers, co-workers, patients, and patients’ families. Through small group activities, discussion and role play, participants will learn to strengthen their existing skills and make themselves more clearly understood. Here’s what previous participants have said about Communicating: Essential Skills: “All nurses should do this, new grads, everyone. It doesn’t matter what language you speak. Communication skills are about how to connect, how to understand what the person is saying.” “I attended because I want my colleagues to understand who I am. I tend to be shy, but the course has built my confidence.” “I can communicate well with my language, but not with English. Attending this course I heard others speaking and I opened up myself and talked more instead of keeping silent.” “I learned about how to listen and the beauty of silence.” To be eligible for this course you must: 1. speak a language other than English as your first language 2. experience language-based communication issues at work 3. be employed as an LPN/RN/RPN Find out more at




RICHMOND HOSPITAL PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY PROCESS PAYS OFF FOR NURSES AND PATIENTS ICU nurses raise concerns and convince management to revise its redeployment policy RICHMOND HOSPITAL intensive care unit nurses were shocked, and thrilled, this summer to read a management memo announcing the end of a controversial redeployment policy. “Effective immediately,” stated the notice, “there is to be absolutely no redeployment of our Intensive Care Unit staff to any areas within the hospital (including ER and PACU). The only exception would be an emergency situation (i.e. plane crash).” The unexpected announcement came shortly after three concerned ICU nurses – Fione Shing, Heidi O’Callaghan, and Brent Anstey – met with senior management and union representatives to explain why a redeployment policy implemented in 2017 was putting their patients at risk and jeopardising their professional practice. “The announcement was so positive that at first no one actually believed the news,” says Shing, who began working at the Richmond ICU four years ago. “It was just the most perfect scenario I could have imagined. We were able to


get exactly what we pushed for, everything we wanted for our patients and for our nurses. No one will be redeployed, except in certain circumstances like a real urgent emergency.” “I’m happy about our success,” adds O’Callaghan, who has worked on the busy unit since December 2015 and filed a professional responsibility form (PRF) in mid-2018 after being inappropriately redeployed. PRFs allow nurses to outline their practice concerns in writing. They are just one part of the Nurses’ Bargaining Association professional responsibility process (PRP) that allows nurses and employers at a local level to engage in meaningful conversation about common goals and to improve patient care or professional practice in a collaborative manner. The process is designed to

identify problems and resolve issues without involving blame.* “It was definitely a great feeling to finally have our PRFs recognized and our voices heard,” says O’Callaghan. “A lot of nurses on the unit were involved in this, and everyone was really pleased to see the change.” “It was a real group effort from so many people,” agrees Shing. “It was a long and difficult struggle, but it was worth it. I can’t say enough about my co-workers for all their work on this, and for the help of our full-time steward Annelise Henderson who really helped us with her advice, coaching and knowledge. She was with us every step of the way, and I can’t thank her enough.” The problems for nurses and their patients began shortly after the hospital implemented a new

“Nurses would worry about when it would it be their turn, and which unit they would be sent to.” Fione Shing


redeployment policy in September 2017. Hospital management told nurses that “when ICU census is low and any other unit is short staffed, Vancouver Coastal Health policy indicates that ICU nurses can be redeployed from their assigned unit and placed on another unit within the same site in order to provide necessary clinical coverage for safe patient/resident care or non-clinical work as required.” Critics of the policy believed that when a unit is short, management should call in an appropriately trained and oriented nurse on overtime, rather than turning to ICU nurses. But management claimed this wasn’t an option due to “fiscal responsibility,” and said the redeployment policy would continue. However, instead of quietly going along with the policy, concerned ICU nurses began using the PRP in an attempt to keep their patients safe. Shing filed a PRF in early 2018 after being redeployed from the ICU. “It was the * These members’ professional responsibility initiative followed the process that existed under Article 59 of the now expired 2014-19 NBA collective agreement. A new process was negotiated and now in effect under the terms of the 2019-22 NBA agreement. Details can be found at

DETERMINED NURSE Richmond Hospital’s Heidi O’Callaghan is happy with the outcome of a professional responsibly process that has ended her regular redeployment to other units in the hospital – a practice that she and other ICU nurses argued was undermining staff morale and compromising patient safety.

first time in my nursing career that I filed a PRF,” she says. “I wasn’t trying to create trouble. I was concerned about my patients’ safety. “I was assigned to a surgical floor. It was a very, very stressful day, ensuring I got everything right. I was really worried about my four post-op patients. I had no idea what the protocols were. I started worrying that I may make a mistake.” In addition to her four patients, Shing was also assigned to mentor a new nursing student. “I was already struggling with my own patient load and at the same time I had to coach

and mentor her and show her around. It wasn’t fair to anyone. “I missed all my breaks that shift. It was such a stressful day that I had a meltdown when I got home. “It’s not that I can’t tolerate a bad day,” she explains. “All nurses have good days and bad days. But it shouldn’t reach a point where it compromises my safety and my patients’ safety.” Heidi O’Callaghan filed a PRF in July 2018, after being redeployed to a pediatric assignment. “There were a couple of separate issues for me,” she explains. One centred on the lack of a proper

orientation and the other on the inappropriate assignment to pediatrics. “There was an attempt to walk me around the unit,” she recalls, “but there was never a real orientation. I didn’t feel I had the knowledge, skills, or ability to do my job safely. “My PRF outlined some of the difficulties I faced trying to navigate a new environment where I didn’t know any of the staff, didn’t know where everything was located, didn’t know all of the equipment, didn’t know many of the new acronyms, and didn’t know the work flow, which is quite different from the ICU. She started to panic. “I hadn’t worked with children since nursing school and caring for a child is so different than for an adult. It’s just not in my wheelhouse.” Not long into her shift, a Code White was called and O’Callaghan was redeployed again, this time to emergency. “I thought I’d have the option of just being workload, an extra helping hand,” she says. “But when I got there they said ‘No, no, you’re taking this assignment.’ She feels the redeployment put her in circumstances where she was giving patients inadequate care, putting them – and her licence – at risk. “It’s a frustrating process. It’s like going to a different country and they’re speaking another language that you

don’t understand.” After the shift ended, O’Callaghan informed a manager about her concerns. Several days later she filed a PRF. Shing says ICU nurses filed a total of five PRFs over the redeployment issue, including ones in early 2018 from RNs Zeina Chahine, Wai Ling Winnie Lam, and Shing. O’Callaghan and Brent Anstey filed their PRFs in mid 2018. Under the PRP that these members used, completed PRFs are forwarded to the worksite Professional Responsibility Committee (PRC) that is comprised of two co-chairs representing the union and the employer, the nurses with the concerns, the union steward, immediate supervisor and the excluded manager. The committee had 30 days following a meeting to submit a written report that covers action items and timelines. But despite filing those five PRFs and meeting with management to discuss the issues, the redeployments continued. O’Callaghan says ICU nurses were being redeployed to most units at the Hospital. “It became such a habit that there were times when we weren’t able to admit patients to ICU because there weren’t enough nurses. It also made it really hard to cover breaks or respond to codes.”




Shing says the practice adversely affected ICU morale. “There was a lot of stress – nurses would worry about when it would be their turn, and which unit they would be sent to.” But instead of giving up,

the tenacious team of ICU nurses continued to file PRFs, attend meetings, and care for their patients. “We were told that having any nurse is better than no nurse,” recalls O’Callaghan. “But at the end of the day

HOW TO CONTACT YOUR REGIONAL PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY ADVOCATES If you need help, please contact your current Professional Responsibility Advocates listed below. Central Vancouver Lindsay Manning

RIVA Romy de Leon

Coastal Mountain Genevieve Dallimore

Shaughnessy Heights Manpreet Mann

East Kootenay Samantha Molloy

Simon Fraser Roy Hansen

Fraser Valley Louisa Tillack

South Fraser Valley Carmen Mangoyob

North East Carla Weetman

South Islands Daphne Wass

North West Samantha Martin

Thompson North Okanagan Myrna Nichols

Okanagan Similkameen Deborah Duperreault

Vancouver Metro Luba Veverytsa

Pacific Rim Sharon Fulton

West Kootenay Nicole Cameron



it’s not about us. It’s about our patients.” Under the previous PRP that these members used, when a professional practice issue couldn’t be resolved or decided at the local level it was advanced to the Senior Review Committee (SRC), the third step of the PRP. The SRC was a health authority-level body with BCNU and employer representatives. Shing, O’Callaghan and Anstey then had the opportunity to again present their arguments at an SRC meeting attended by Vivian Eliopoulos, Vancouver Coastal Health Authority vice president (Vancouver, Richmond Acute). Eliopoulos responded quickly to the nurses’ concerns and issued the memo announcing an end to the policy soon after the meeting. “We didn’t expect to resolve this issue at the very first meeting,” says Shing. “After all, it had already been 18 months since we filed the first PRFs. The Vancouver Coastal vice president was a very good listener and took the time to understand our situation.” “The process took a long time,” adds O’Callaghan, “so we were well prepared for the meeting, which took about 90 minutes. “We had our statistics, and we had our issues organized and lined up. I think they were surprised with all the info we brought forward, like

all the times we’ve redeployed, the amount of time we were left short in ICU, and the impact the policy had on patients and nurses.” She reports that nurses on the unit were really happy to learn about the change in policy. “A lot of people were involved, so they felt really vindicated when their efforts led to a positive result after so much work. It was great for everyone to finally be listened to.” Shing says news of the redeployment reversal has some former Richmond Hospital ICU nurses, who left the unit while the policy was in place, now considering a return. Both Shing and O’Callaghan are pleased with the results of the ICU team’s work, and they recommend other BCNU members use the PRP to advocate for patients and nurses. “You’ve got to file PRFs because that’s your voice,” says O’Callaghan. “And you’ve got to follow up and stick to the process. It may take a long time, but PRFs are sometimes the only thing nurses have.” “If you think patient safety has been compromised you should take the time to file a PRF,” explains Shing. “I highly recommend it. Your issue may not be resolved right away, and you may have some bad days, but in the end your concerns will be heard and you’ll have advocated for your patients’ safety.” •


“I believe I’m doing important work and I know that together we can and will improve patient care and nurses’ working conditions,” says North East region chair Danette Thomsen.


QUICK FACTS NAME Danette Thomsen. GRADUATED 2007, College of New Caledonia. UNION POSITION North East chair. WHY I SUPPORT BCNU? “BCNU is making a difference on the frontlines and I can’t imagine the workplace without the work that we are doing.”

BCNU NORTH EAST region chair Danette Thomsen recalls being interested in nursing when she was in high school. She then chose to forgo her dream after she graduated into a provincial hiring slow-down. But, as the proverb goes, good things come to those who wait. Undaunted by circumstance, the Princeton-born Thomsen enrolled in the Okanagan School of Hairdressing in Kelowna. “I’ve always said Princeton is a great place to be from,” she laughs, “and my sister who lives there gives me the eye roll every time!” Thomsen worked as a hairdresser for over 22 years, operating out of her home salon. “I was able to contribute and have an income while working around our kids’ schedules.” But as her children became more independent, Thomsen realized she needed to do something for herself. She took several personality tests and all results pointed back towards nursing. Although years had passed since she first considered the

profession, Thomsen jumped in, applying to several nursing programs and resolved to attend whichever accepted her first. Prince George’s College of New Caledonia responded, and Thomsen graduated as an LPN in 2007 – the same year her daughter graduated from high school. She began her career in family medicine at University Hospital of Northern BC and later worked in longterm care at Prince George’s Gateway Lodge. “It’s the toughest nursing I have ever done,” Thomsen says of her time in long-term care. “It’s rough losing people you have grown to care about deeply.” She returned to acute care over concern for her own mental health. “Acute care also has challenges for sure, but I always felt fantastic when we saw someone go home after thinking they wouldn’t make it.” Wanting to advocate for other nurses, Thomsen became a worksite steward in 2012. She was elected to her regional executive in 2014, serving as the OH&S rep before being elected region chair in 2017.

“Health and safety is my passion,” she says. “If there is anything that motivates me, it’s the safety of our members.” Thomsen believes nurses need both emotional and physical protection. “We give so much to patients and put ourselves out there daily, but who’s caring about our members on the front lines?” One of 25 council members, Thomsen now serves on the union’s Member Engagement Committee and seniors’ strategy working group. She’s committed to advocating for seniors and encourages nurses to consider working with them. “These are the people who have given so much for our country, and they are too often forgotten. Many new grads don’t want to come out of school and go into seniors’ care,” she notes. “But I believe it’s a specialty in itself, and a beautiful avenue of nursing.” “I miss working on the floor,” admits Thomsen, “but I believe I’m doing important work and I know that together we can and will improve patient care and nurses’ working conditions.” •




BCNU CAN. Here’s how you can get in touch with the right person to help you. CONTACT YOUR

Stewards for all workplace concerns. Regional Reps if your steward can’t help, or for all regional matters. Executive Committee for all provincial, national or union policy issues.


REGIONAL REPS CENTRAL VANCOUVER Marlene Goertzen Co-chair C 778-874-9330 Judy McGrath Co-chair C 604-970-4339 COASTAL MOUNTAIN Kath-Ann Terrett Chair C 604-828-0155 EAST KOOTENAY Helena Barzilay Chair C 250-919-3310 FRASER VALLEY Tracey Greenberg Chair C 604-785-8147


PRESIDENT Christine Sorensen C 250-819-6293

TREASURER Sharon Sponton C 250-877-2547

VICE PRESIDENT Aman Grewal C 778-879-5485

EXECUTIVE COUNCILLOR Chris Armeanu C 604-209-4260

EXECUTIVE COUNCILLOR Adriane Gear C 778-679-1213

NORTH EAST Danette Thomsen Chair C 250-960-8621 danettethomsen

SHAUGHNESSY HEIGHTS Claudette Jut Chair C 604-786-8422

SOUTH ISLANDS Lynnda Smith Co-chair C 778-977-6315

NORTH WEST Teri Forster Chair C 250-615-8077

SIMON FRASER Lynn Lagace Co-chair C 604-219-4162

Margo Wilton Co-chair C 250-818-4862

OKANAGAN-SIMILKAMEEN Rhonda Croft Chair C 250-212-0530

Wendy Gibbs Co-Chair C 604-240-1242

PACIFIC RIM Rachel Kimler Chair C 250-816-0865 RIVA Sara Mattu Chair C 778-989-8231


SOUTH FRASER VALLEY Hardev Bhullar Co-chair C 778-855-0220 Walter Lumamba Co-chair C 604-512-2004

THOMPSON NORTH OKANAGAN Tracy Quewezance Chair C 250-320-8064 VANCOUVER METRO Meghan Friesen Chair C 604-250-0751 WEST KOOTENAY Ron Poland Chair C 250-368-1085




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Profile for BC Nurses' Union

BCNU Update Magazine October 2019  

Calling for a seniors strategy

BCNU Update Magazine October 2019  

Calling for a seniors strategy