Healthcare Quarterly

Healthcare Quarterly 5(2) December 2001 : 9-10.doi:10.12927/hcq..17134

Letters: Nursing Workplaces

Andrew Wells and Pat Fredrickson


In the Fall 2001 article "Repairing and Renewing Nursing Workplaces" by Michael Decter and Michael Villeneuve, there is some advice provided in terms of moving forward. They provide a list from Canada's Women's Health Strategy that includes "Encourage men to do more child care and housework."
Perhaps in the context of Canada's Women's Health Strategy this might be appropriate but I find it unsuitable and offensive in this article. Is the amount of housework being performed by nurses' husbands really important enough to be singled out for inclusion in a four-page article on serious challenges in nursing? Does it really belong on the same list as "Put an end to sexual harassment"?

My hope is that Mr. Decter, in his role of Chair of the Canadian Nursing Advisory Committee, can keep his eye on the ball, as there are many serious issues that can and should be addressed. Shame on Mr. Decter for bashing males to win points with nurses.

- Andrew Wells, Newfoundland

Thank you, Mr. Wells, for taking the time to read and respond to our paper. One of the realities of the nursing workforce in Canada today is that some 95% of nurses are women. And, a concurrent reality of women's lives is what has been called the "double burden" of women's lives - where many women work a full paid shift outside the home and then work a second "shift" inside the home providing care for children, aging parents, spouses and others. The fact that, on average, women bear an inequitable burden of work inside North American homes is not news.

What we talked about in the article was that the spirit of the recommendations of the Women's Health Strategy is relevant to nursing, not that the strategy itself was the solution to the issues in nursing. Nurses themselves, in study after study, have identified the factors that are stressful and/or unsatisfying in their work places. We noticed that many of those same dis-satisfiers were common to those identified by women in the National Women's Strategy. And in fact, issues such as job insecurity, work overload, lack of control, and environmental occupational risks are significant for nurses regardless of gender - which was the point we made in the article by saying, "We know well that all nurses are not female, but regardless of gender, is there any doubt that this will all sound and feel familiar to most nurses?" Noting the recommendations that we should pay attention to issues such as job pace, flexible and supportive family-friendly terms of employment, child care, job security, and safety standards, acknowledges the realities of many women's - and many nurses' - daily lives, and in no way is meant to "bash" men. Therefore, while we appreciate your perspective, Mr. Wells, we stand by our comments.

- Michael Decter and Michael Villeneauve,
Canadian Nursing Advisory Committee

I was extremely upset that the article submitted on behalf of the Canadian Nursing Advisory Committee had not one word mentioning the Licensed Practical Nurse. This is not only an insult; it is a continued part of the injustice afforded to the LPN in Canada. A more severe nursing crisis can only be avoided by recognition that we are all part of the solution.
It is therefore my expectation that you will rectify this serious oversight and focus your next contribution in the Hospital Quarterly on the Licensed Practical Nurse. I am providing you with a copy of the "Canadian Practical Nurses Association Brief" to the Senate and the presentation notes. This very clearly speaks to LPN issues. Should it not be comprehensive enough, I will be pleased to provide you with any additional information you may require, and to review the article before it is submitted.

- Pat Fredrickson,Executive Director/Registrar, Canadian Licensed Practical Nurses Association

Thank you, Pat, for your comments and for providing the CPNA brief, which we read with interest. You have been a tireless advocate for practical nursing in Canada. As we did in person, Pat, we apologize for any misunderstanding caused by using the generic terms "nursing" and "nurse" to reflect the licensed categories of nurses in Canada. Our vision in writing the paper was one of being inclusive of all nursing groups. We in no way intended to favour one group over any other, which is why we used only those generic terms throughout the paper. In retrospect, we should have made note at the beginning of the paper that we were talking about nursing issues in a generic way - and that we were thinking about Registered Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses and Registered Psychiatric Nurses. We will be more careful to solicit and include specific examples for the three groups in future papers, and we thank you for your feedback.

- Michael Decter and Michael Villeneauve,
Canadian Nursing Advisory Committee


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