Labour Day message: The broader role nursing unions play in promoting healthy societies
For Saskatchewan’s more than 10,000 Registered Nurses (RN), Registered Psychiatric Nurses (RPN) and Registered Nurse(Nurse Practitioner)s (RN(NP), Labour Day is an annual reminder of the important role their union plays in advancing health care, protecting patients, and fostering strong, healthy communities.
As the single largest group of direct health care providers in the system, registered nurses have always been perfectly positioned to lead change. It’s their union’s support, however, that has empowered them to turn their ideas into action.
Safe staffing is one of the most important, and often overlooked, examples of where nursing unions play a leading advocacy role to the benefit of not only their members, but the entire health care team, and most importantly, patients.
With enough frontline staff working on a unit, patient outcomes improve. When the whole team has enough time to dedicate to the medical, physical and emotional needs of their patients, everyone feels supported. Team morale goes up and stress levels, burnout and staff turnover go down. This promotes improved performance, fewer occupational injuries and better, safer patient care. The end result is a stronger health system that works for everyone.
Nursing unions also give their members a voice, so they feel supported when advocating for their patients.
Registered nurses always look at a problem from a patient perspective but speaking up or speaking out when something isn’t working is never easy when doing it alone. When the quality of care begins to slip, it’s registered nurses who know about it first, and it’s registered nurses who patients rely on to sound the alarm.
Better care happens when direct care providers report potential or actual safety issues and work with management to resolve problems. Nursing unions provide their members with the necessary support to ensure this critical reporting occurs. Open communication and joint problem-solving are the hallmarks of a high-functioning health system, and nursing unions play a central role in facilitating this process.
Nursing unions also make a difference beyond the health system by actively addressing community health holistically; an approach at the core of nursing practice.
Whether it’s working with stakeholders across Canada to advocate for a national pharmacare plan that will guarantee access to affordable prescription drugs for everyone, or supporting provincial community organizations in tackling the social determinants of health such as food, housing and income security, nursing unions strive to build stronger healthier and more prosperous communities everywhere.
This Labour Day, take a moment to consider the broader role nursing unions play in supporting patients and promoting the overall health and wellbeing of society. They are not just a voice for nurses, they are a voice for patients – a voice for everyone. Happy Labour Day, Saskatchewan.
Tracy Zambory, RN
President, Saskatchewan Union of Nurses