Meadow Lake Progress, Thu Jul 19 2012 Page: 2 Section: News Byline: RICHARD MCGUIRE, MEADOW LAKE PROGRESS
The local health region is looking into the way it uses Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) to see whether there is consistency within the region and whether nurses are able to work to the extent their training allows.
David Fan, CEO of Prairie North Health Region (PNHR) made a commitment to examine standardization of LPN practice following a recent presentation by the union representing the nurses.
Brian Manegre, president of CUPE Local 5111 and Val Spencer, an LPN in Turtleford, spoke at the PNHR's board meeting June 27 in North Battleford about a report suggesting the skills of LPNs are underused.
The report titled Full Utilization of Licensed Practical Nurses: A Practical Solution to the Nursing Shortage says a 2010 survey of LPNs found that only half of employers in the province fully use the nursing skills of the LPNs.
"This is like training journeyman plumbers, but only allowing them to fix leaky faucets," the report by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) says.
Within the PNHR, which includes Meadow Lake and the surrounding area, full utilization of LPNs dropped to 53.7 per cent in 2010 from 58 per cent in 2004, the report says.
Fan said he appreciated hearing from the CUPE delegation and acknowledged the need to be consistent across the region.
"Having every health-care professional work to their full scope of practice -that is, do all the things they are trained to do -is key to having a patient-centered, high-performing health system," Fan said in a news release. "We are moving that way."
Glennys Uzelman, PNHR vice-president primary health services, says the need to have employees working to the full scope for which they are trained applies to all and not only LPNs.
"Our goal is to have all employees work to the full scope which best utilizes the skills that everyone has to offer," Uzelman said.
She plans to follow up on the points the union addressed.
In Meadow Lake, she says, LPNs are being fully used.
"I have touched base with the hospital and long-term care facility there, and the LPNs do work to their full scope," she said.
Fully using the skills of workers is fundamental to the team approach that PNHR is promoting, she suggests. That approach is based on using various health professionals to take some of the pressure off physicians in situations that don't require a physician.
Uzelman said that in recent years the training received by LPNs and the skills they learn have increased. Those who received lower levels of training in the past have been required to upgrade their skills.
CUPE says the educational requirements have increased so that LPNs much now complete a 65-week Practical Nursing Education Program to receive their diploma. This increased from a 58-week program in 2006.
While it may be that the work LPNs are allowed to perform hasn't always kept pace with their increased skill levels, CUPE suggests a partnership between the province and another union may have adversely affected LPNs. The agreement with the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN), which represents 8,300 registered nurses, says health regions can't allow other health providers to fill RN vacancies.
"LPNs in the Prairie North Health Region took the same in-house emergency triage training side by side with the RNs," says the CUPE report. "After years of LPNs competently doing triage work, they are now not permitted to do this task."