Saskatchewan’s registered nurses are preparing for a major governance change as the provincial regulatory association prepares to step away from its role as an advocate.
The Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association (SRNA) Council has voted unanimously for the organization to focus solely on its role as a regulatory and disciplinary body, meaning it will gradually lose its mandate as an advocate for nurses and health policy.
President Warren Koch said the association, which represents roughly 12,000 registered nurses and nurse practitioners, will start laying the foundation for an entirely new professional association to fill those shoes.
As a result, the SRNA will soon have a smaller mandate — and eventually, possibly a new name.
The change brings Saskatchewan in line with other provinces in the country, where a ‘church and state’ rule often applies to regulatory and professional competences.
“When we look across Canada, this is the way things are moving forward,” Koch said.
The change would see the SRNA hunker down on its role of a regulator acting in the public interest. The Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN) would continue to represent nurses themselves, and the new association would lobby for policy and the profession.
Nurses say the idea was been in the works at the official level for about a year, but has been discussed for nearly a decade.
SUN President Tracy Zambory said her organization is prepared to help in any way it can with the transition and the creation of a new association, which she believes will strengthen the union’s own advocacy efforts on behalf of its members.
But how it changes the landscape of nursing in the province remains to be seen.
“It feels like the smartest move for them to make sure they’re in line with all the other regulatory bodies across the country, and frankly, the world,” Zambory said. “And how that’s going to affect us really remains to be seen.”
Koch did not say if any specific incident sparked discussions of changing the association’s mandate, but said juggling the roles of regulator and advocate can affect how the association is perceived or create confusion about its role.
“There’s a bit of a rub there,” Koch said, while stressing all the SRNA’s policy is evidence-based. He said focusing purely on ensuring a high quality of registered nursing care in the province will clarify and strengthen the association’s position.
“The public is demanding higher accountability, and regulatory bodies are under much more scrutiny,” Koch said. “As a regulator, our job is to protect the public.”
The process of forming an entirely new association will take a considerable amount of time.
Nurses are the single largest group of health care professionals in the province. Koch said it will require extensive consultation with the ministry of heath, employers and the SUN, who represent nurses before their employers. He imagines it will be at least two years before the association exists, he said. In the meantime, the SRNA will continue to operate with its current dual mandate, with change being “gradual.”
Koch said the process will likely begin at the SRNA’s upcoming conference in May — though there’s no telling where the discussion could go.
“We don’t want to be prescriptive,” he cautioned.
Photo by Don Healy, Regina Leader-Post