A message as we begin 2022 amid a fifth wave

As we begin a new year, 2022, amid another very challenging wave – the fifth one -- I want to thank each health care worker for the work you do. Our nursing colleagues are stretched beyond imagination with unattainable workloads and an unjust Bill 124 undermining their unparalleled contribution to Ontario’s health-care system. Please know that RNAO will stand by you, with you and for you until this government acts!

Today, Minister of Health Christine Elliot made an announcement. I naively thought it would be about the demand to #RepealBill124 and the fast-tracking of Internationally Educated Nurses (IENs). These are two of the issues we have been raising. It was wishful thinking regarding the first issue and a token of recognition to our plea on the second. Minister Elliot announced that 300 IENs will be deployed to hospitals “as early as this week.” She also informed that 1,200 IENs have expressed interest in those positions. I say a “token of recognition” referring to the insistence of RNAO and our awesome members calling to fast-track the process for the thousands of IENs who have been waiting for years to be processed. Some have waited upwards of eight years. Such state of affairs is wrong, unjust and disastrous for them, for our colleagues who are beyond exhaustion, and for Ontarians who need and deserve safe and quality care.

Colleagues, in addition to the thousands of IENs waiting to be processed by the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO), there are hundreds of nurses who live in Ontario and who have attained all the regulatory requirements to work. Still, they are not allowed to work as they came to Canada as “caregivers” and cannot work as nurses until Immigration and Citizenship Canada changes their work permit status. I am working with them to help in their struggle.

My dear readers, we will continue to demand from the CNO to speed up the process for IEN registration. I know too well what our colleagues are going through. After all, I too am an IEN. So is our immediate past-president Dr. Angela Cooper-Brathwaite, and our president-elect, Dr. Claudette Holloway. We must end an absurd situation where our colleagues at the bedside are forced to work double shifts with double workloads, while thousands of fully trained IENs are unable to work due to bureaucratic ineptitude and lack of political will.

2021 was a tough year for nurses in the frontlines, their managers, educators and nursing students. It was also an exhausting year for many of us who have been doing all we can to support our colleagues and Ontarians. 2022, with Omicron spreading fast, has had an extremely challenging beginning, but hopefully come the spring life will become easier. For now, we must continue fighting the virus. When necessary, we will also fight the system that at times adds rather than softens difficulties for the public and for nurses.

On behalf of RNAO’s President Morgan Hoffarth, the entire Board and staff, I thank you for being champions of care and responding to the call with knowledge, compassion, and courage. You save lives and you help grieve lost ones. You make a difference for people everywhere and every day. You endure scars and exhaustion. And sometimes we find silver linings. I cannot stop saying that my biggest silver lining is YOU – the Ontario nurses – RNs, NPs, RPNs and nursing students. YOU inspire me to no end. My biggest sorrow is that YOUR unwavering and endless giving has NOT yet been matched by the respect you demand and deserve. Therefore, RNAO will continue to fight to #RepealBill124 until this reprehensible bill is repealed.  2022 MUST bring you full recognition and also rest and fun.