Nursing Changes Keeps Patients First – Response by Deb Gordon

Re: “Nurses Raise Awareness of Job Cuts,” p. 10 October 29 Sundre Round Up Editorial Response

There has been a lot of talk lately that may leave people with the impression that Alberta Health Services is cutting nurses, replacing nurses, or somehow devaluing the work that our nurses do.

That would not be further from the truth.

Nurses are instrumental in the way we care for Albertans. Every minute of every day, our nurses are providing care those who need it most. We join all Albertans in thanking them for their tireless dedication to caring for us when we need their help.

What we are doing is making some changes to the way our nurses work and changing or eliminating positions as they become vacant. We are doing this so that we can create other positions that are full or fuller time and have nurses where our patients need them most. We know that these changes have created some uncertainty among nurses. It is important to know that patients are at the heart of these changes.

Every change we make to nursing schedules is being made to improve patient care.
Having more full-time nurses means patients and families see the same health providers more regularly, get to know their care team, and have the opportunity to better express their care needs and preferences.

We are also trying to free up our registered nurses (RNs) to provide the care that only they can provide. That does not mean we are replacing RNs with other workers. It does mean that we will be using licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and health care aids (HCAs) to do the work they are trained to do, which then allows RNs to do the work they are trained to do.

We are hiring qualified, capable and skilled nurses who want to work full time for AHS. Right now, there are 281full-time and part-time vacant nursing positions across the province that we are attempting to fill.

Between April 1 and June 30 of this year, we hired 471new nurses to AHS and the largest increase in our clinical workforce was RNs. Our overall nursing workforce, including RNs, LPNs and HCAs, has increased by 13 per cent since 2010 – that’s more than twice the population growth rate.

Unfortunately, the way the collective agreement is written means we are requires to issue layoff notices to staff in order to redeploy them to where our patients need them most. A lay-off notice does not mean a job loss. It means we can redeploy a nurse to where the patient need is the greatest.

Significantly, AHS and the United Nurses of Alberta have agreed on a process that will see adjustments made as nurses change positions or retire. This will prevent any significant lay-off for registered nurses.

Again, any decisions will be made with the patient first and foremost in our minds.

Deb Gordon
Leader, collaborative practice, nursing and health professions. Alberta Health Services.

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