CUPE's Licensed Practical Nurse Committee presented a slide show about the many initiatives undertaken on behalf of LPNs in our province. The work towards full scope of practice has been ongoing and hopefully will someday end with all LPNs in province, about half of them CUPE members, being able to do all the things they've been trained to do.
The LPN committee requested changes to our collective agreement to address issues specific to LPNs. Many members have furthered their careers by taking more or specialized training. Much of this training was paid for through the CUPE-negotiated Provincial Employment Strategy Fund, something the LPN committee actively promotes.
The committee's presentation shared work done on behalf of LPNs over the past 13 or 14 years. CUPE research developed several briefs highlighting some of the problems with not being able to work to full scope.
These briefs were developed through conversations with LPNs in all of the health districts. The LPN Committee presented the brief to boards of 18 health districts and also to the Ministry of Health, for the first time on May 12, 1999.
In May 2000 we saw our first major victory – the Saskatchewan government introduced amendments to The Licensed Practical Nurses Act that enabled LPNs to finally work without supervision of an RN or a doctor. Following this, we called on the health districts to follow suit by implementing full scope of practice for LPNs.
In the spring of 2003, the committee helped CUPE with a survey of LPNs in what had by then become the five health regions where LPNs are represented by CUPE. This was the first major survey of LPNs in the province. CUPE research then used the results to prepare a report highlighting the five workplaces in five health regions that used LPNs to full scope of practice. CUPE also produced a video called The Health Care Journey: Utilizing licensed practical nurses to full scope of practice.
Over the next decade the LPN committee, along with CUPE representatives, met the boards of the five health regions to discuss full scope of practice; met with representatives from the Ministry of Health on many occasions; held roundtable discussions with LPNs; arranged news conferences in all of these areas to profile LPN concerns; celebrated nursing week; and promoted the work LPNs do and the work they could do by blanketing the province with newspaper ads and workplace posters.
SALPN, the Saskatchewan Association of Licensed Practical Nurses developed and conducted its own questionnaire, based on the survey CUPE conducted a year earlier. The report based on the findings was produced later that year and showed that in many places in Saskatchewan, LPNs were still woefully under-utilized.
SIAST requested permission to use our video "The Health Care Journey" as part of its educational component for new LPNs.
In bargaining CUPE tabled a proposed Letter of Understanding with SAHO that would commit employers to support the full optimization of LPN's professional skills and gained the support of other unions who tabled the same language. As a result we now have that letter in our collective agreement obligating SAHO to update its policies to allow LPNs to work to their full scope.
CUPE produced a 3 minute video on working to full scope using those LPN stories and showed it at the CUPE Health Care conference.
Despite all the problems with scope of practice, LPNs are on the rise in Saskatchewan. Between 2007 and 2011 the number of LPNs working in Saskatchewan increased by 14.4 per cent. Out of every 100,000 citizen 265 are LPNs, the national average is only 246. Saskatchewan LPNs are more likely to work in a hospital than in any other province in the country. 98.6% of our LPNs work in direct patient care. LPNs are also the youngest of the nursing professions – 21.5% are younger than 30. The average age is just under 42.
The Committee pointed out that when compared with the rest of Western Canada, one could conclude that CUPE has excellent negotiators, because "our LPNs are the highest paid!"
CUPE negotiated the creation of a Provincial Employment Strategy Committee (PESC) in 1999. Pooling the employee and employer employment insurance rebates, PESC makes these funds available to health care providers to upgrade their skills or train for specific jobs. Between 2004 and 2012 PESC funded over 2,196 applications from LPNs. This amounted to over 2.6 million dollars.
The Committee told delegates that many LPNs have their hands tied while watching patients wait for an RN, knowing the whole time they could provide the service the patient is waiting for. "This isn't just an issue for LPNs, this is an issue for all of us."
The LPN committee has just conducted another series of roundtable discussions where LPNs told us about their issues and what they thought the solutions should be. The information will be used to conduct another campaign in support of CUPE's LPNs.
The Committee asked the delegates to support the three resolutions they submitted on issues important to LPNs.