@SUNnurses President's Message

Navigating the Perfect Storm

When I look at everything that’s happening in today’s healthcare environment, I can only imagine the pressures registered nurses are feeling on the frontlines every day. There are so many unknowns out there right now.

At a provincial level, Saskatchewan is exploring significant health system redesign, which will likely involve a merging of health regions among other potentially major changes. At a regional level, employers are struggling to makeup budget shortfalls and unfortunately this has been playing out in the form of layoffs, choosing not to fill vacancies, and the abolishment of registered nurse positions.

If you speak to a registered nurse today they will tell you that any decision that reduces the number of direct care providers to curb spending is a decision that will put patients at increased risk. They will tell you that they are already stretched thin; that they are too often working short-staffed; and that Saskatchewan is most certainly not in a position where any reductions in frontline staff can be made without compromising patient safety.

This past summer, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health reported a very worrying 28% increase in Critical Incidents compared to last year, with most of those being related to the provision of direct care. In the spring, a survey of 1,500 SUN members found that 85% said they are aware of times patients have been put at risk due to short-staffing; with 45% of those reporting this occurs “frequently”.

Couple these findings with the sustained high levels of overtime SUN members continue to work, and you get a picture of a system that is clearly running at full capacity with little room for manoeuvering.

These numbers are, however, of little surprise given the changing needs of our patient population — acuity and complexity is on the rise. Patients now require a different level of care, attention and expertise — a fact SUN members are intensely aware of.

Unfortunately, all of this is happening just as the provincial economy has begun to falter and wane. Scarcely a day has gone by in recent weeks, where the province’s major news outlets have not reported on Saskatchewan’s dire economic outlook.

In a manner of speaking it’s a perfect storm. A storm, I want to reassure you, SUN will help you weather.

SUN exists to represent you and your concerns in deliberations with government and employers. No matter the forum, SUN members can always be certain their union is giving them a voice — especially during these tumultuous times.

At SUN’s 2016 Education Conference in October of this year, I referred to registered nurses as “key influencers” in Saskatchewan’s healthcare system. I spoke about how our patients and the public have always looked to us for support, guidance and leadership — especially in times of great uncertainty.

Today, I ask you to once again to contemplate what it means to be an influencer. Remembering that your strength lies with your professional knowledge and expertise and that you are always supported by your union when you speak out.

As registered nurses, we recognize the importance of looking at healthcare holistically, whether it be for individual patients or the entire system. We understand that investing in models of care that prioritize safe staffing based on patient needs is the only path forward. And we know that there are already places in the system where more can be done to find savings without reducing frontline staff. It’s these areas of opportunity that need be our starting points, and it’s us, the registered nurses of this province, that need to lead the way.

Tracy Zambory, RN
SUN President