Nurses have come a long way in their efforts to articulate what they do and its value to health in Ontario. We have learned to share that our role is one of knowledge, skill and decision-making based on critical thinking rather than a list of tasks we carry out. Through that, the public is beginning to have a greater understanding of the value we bring to each person we care for, or engage with, during our practice. There remains a missing piece and that is the impact on the larger health and quality of life of our communities as a whole...entire systems and processes that are successful entirely or in part because of the nurses who work within them.
As I spent a day with Amanda Price RPN as she carried out her home care duties for the VON, I was most impressed with her agility in adapting to the evolving needs of her clients in a way that provided them with optimal nursing care while affording them a great deal of autonomy over their lives and an ability to direct the care they were receiving. The patients I met had a strong preference to be cared for at home among their loved ones. Elderly described being most comfortable in their own homes close to their spouses...a palliative child, happiest when playing with siblings and snuggling on her own couch with parents watching her favorite television shows.
Home care nursing is not the most high profile of nursing sectors. Often, the pay for the work doesn’t match that from other sectors. Workloads have increased dramatically and the number of visits some nurses may be asked to make in a day can be staggering. Yet, nurses like Amanda Price choose to continue to provide care to those who can be cared for in their own homes. Home care is made possible by these nurses who bring a sense of deep caring and respect for their clients and give a quality of life to so many. Without the dedication of these nurses, client choice would be significantly limited.
Second, as we have watched the first cases of Ebola in North American occur, the knowledge that this disease is one that will be managed by care providers, especially nurses and doctors is becoming clear. These health care providers will care for those who are infectious and assume all the risks that entails in order to protect the general public from broad spread of the disease. While we, as a society, acknowledge the risk to nurses and others, rarely does society stop to truly appreciate that the actions of nurses and their colleagues stop disease in its tracks, literally, as barriers to the broad spread of infectious disease.
We at RPNAO always have a deep sense of thankfulness to you as nurses for the work that you do. But we also want to take a moment to acknowledge the difference made to the safety and quality of life of our society as a whole because of your efforts. It’s time for us to move past the vision of nursing as a profession that gives medications and runs an IV and see the profession as one that ensures the well-being of many through their actions.