Licensed Practical Nurses are a critical component of the nursing team.
They work hand in hand with many other health care professionals to deliver the quality care that the public expect and deserve. In many instances the work they do is the same as the work other professionals do. The overlap of skills and abilities is necessary for true collaboration and true collaboration is a goal Practical Nurses have long fought to attain. The right to use all of their skills is another long-waged fight and the CUPE Health Care Council Licensed Practical Nurses Committee has been there every step of the way working tirelessly on behalf of all LPNs in the province and those they care for.
In 2003 CUPE conducted a survey in the five health regions where LPNs are represented by CUPE to find out just how wide-ranging the scope of practice issue is and how many LPNs truly practice to their full scope. The results were used to produce a report which was the basis of meetings with CEOs in all five regions and news conferences so educate the public on the issue. CUPE also produced a video titled, "The Health Care Journey: Utilizing Licensed Practical Nurses to Full Scope of Practice."
In February of 2004, with the then Minister of Health, the Associate Deputy Minister of Health and the Principal Nursing Advisor to promote full scope of practice for LPNs.
CUPE's leadership in raising issues of importance to Licensed Practical Nurses led two other organizations to take on LPN initiatives as well:
- In 2004, the Saskatchewan Association of Licensed Practical Nurses developed its own survey which was conducted province-wide; a first for Saskatchewan's Practical Nurses.
- In 2005, SIAST contacted CUPE requesting the use of our video as part of their LPN training, a great recognition of the value of the CUPE LPN Committee work.
In 2008, CUPE prepared a comprehensive report with concrete recommendations titled, "A Practical Solution to the Nursing Shortage" and presented its strategic plan to SAHO, the five health regions and the provincial government. News conferences were held across the province and a television ad was developed to promote the "full utilization of LPNs as one practical solution to the nursing shortage." As a result, all health regions committed to work towards removing the barriers which prevented LPNs from working to full scope.
The CUPE Health Care Council, along-side the LPN Committee, has achieved gains at the bargaining table for LPNs. These include:
- The merger of collective agreements for acute and long term care, ensuring common working conditions and benefits.
- The implementation of joint job evaluation. Portability of benefits within CUPE health regions if a health care worker changes employers.
- Improvements to pension plan funding and the creation of a jointly trusted pension plan in 2003 so that workers don't retire in poverty.
- Paid family illness days.
- Language to address workload.
- Significant wage increases as a result of the joint job evaluation plan.
- Protection of bargaining unit work.
- In the 1999 round of bargaining, CUPE negotiated the creation of a Provincial Employment Strategy Committee. The Provincial Employment Strategy Committee provides funds to assist health care workers to upgrade their skills or train for specific jobs.
- Between 2004 and 2012, the Provincial Employment Strategy Committee of CUPE and SAHO funded over 2,196 applications from Licensed Practical Nurses to upgrade their training. Over $2.6 million in training funds were provided to CUPE LPNs through this committee in this time period.
- Funding from this committee was provided to CUPE LPNs for the administration of medications course so they could practice to full scope in the workplace and meet their licensing requirements. Funding was also provided for LPNs to train as ORTs and for other courses such as health assessment, IV therapy and wound care.
The Canadian Institute for Health Information reported that the nursing force in Saskatchewan has grown by 13.2 per cent in the last five years, but the number of Practical Nurses increased by 17.8 per cent.
In January, the institute also reported that Practical Nurses are more likely to work in acute care than their Canadian counterparts. In Saskatchewan 60.9 per cent of Practical Nurses work in hospitals as compared to 42.9 per cent across Canada. The report also stated that one in five nurses in this province are LPNs and 98.6 per cent of them work in direct patient care, compared to 90 per cent of RNs.
Early in 2013 the LPN Committee conducted an extensive consultation with LPNs in all five health locals gathering information about the issues LPNs continue to face. They found that LPNs are still being underutilized in many areas, they face crippling workload problems and they don't feel recognized as the vital part of the nursing team that they are.
This research is being compiled and phase II of the campaign is in the works. This second phase will again see the committee and many member organizers who are all LPNs go back out into the field to consult with LPNs, to speak with the health boards, SAHO and the government to address the issues that have been identified.
While CUPE Licensed Practical Nurses continue to see gains, our work together needs to continue!
CUPE continues to address concerns of Licensed Practical Nurses with the Government of Saskatchewan, the Regional Health Authorities, the Saskatchewan Association of Licensed Practical Nurses Association and other unions. To view updates from your CHCC LPN Committee, please visit: http://www.cupesaskhcc.ca/licensed-practical-nurses
Thank you for your continued support.
CUPE Health Care Council of Unions
Tel: (306) 546-2185
Fax: (306) 757-0102