REGINA: Despite the nursing shortage in Saskatchewan, one group of nurses continues to be woefully under-utilized and the health regions still have no comprehensive plan to address it.
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Licensed practical nurses account for 21% of the nurses in the province, but many complain that are often working as “glorified special care aides,” not nurses.
A 2006 survey by the Saskatchewan Association of Licensed Practical Nurses (SALPN), for example, found only 50% of the practical nurses surveyed were fully utilized and working to their full scope of practice – up slightly from 44% in 2004.
Karen Disiewich, a Prince Albert LPN, “feels frustrated on a daily basis” because in the hospital unit where she works she is not permitted to initiate and discontinue dialysis treatment. In contract, LPNs in both Regina and Yorkton are able to do this work.
“It’s discouraging,” says Gloria Fingas, a CUPE licensed practical nurse in Moosomin with more than 25 years experience. “LPNs have as much training as many registered nurses but are frequently prevented from doing their job, especially in the acute care setting.”
A new report prepared by CUPE, A practical solution to the nursing shortage, points out that practical nurses are trained to perform many of the same duties as registered nurses.
The report also points out that prior to 2000, a degree was not required to become an RN in Saskatchewan. As recent as 2006, for example, a two-year diploma was the highest education level for 65.8% of registered nurses in Saskatchewan. Practical nurses now also graduate with a two-year diploma.
Last month CUPE met with the Saskatchewan Association of Health Organizations and representatives of the health regions to present its report and propose a strategic plan to fully utilize LPNs. “We told them that any plan to address the nursing shortage must begin by addressing the reasons why practical nurses are not allowed to nurse,” says Gordon Campbell, President of the CUPE Health Care Council.
But SAHO recently informed the union it would not sign on to the plan. No reasons were given for the decision. The union says if SAHO is not prepared to act, the health regions must.
CUPE, which represents about 1,300 practical nurses in five health regions, launched a television ad on May 21 to publicize the under-utilization of practical nurses.
“We want the public to know about this because it’s a terrible waste of nursing skills and resources,” says Campbell. “Hopefully, our public campaign will persuade the health regions to implement a province-wide plan to ensure all LPNs are fully utilized.”
For more information contact, Gordon Campbell at 306 546-2185.