Melanie Leckovic, BCNU
An Emergency nurse for over 30 years, Melanie is a Patient Care Coordinator at Burnaby Hospital Emergency and in her first term as Vice President of BCNU. She currently oversees the Repair the Care campaign which educates members on the impact of privatization on nursing workload and the importance of maintaining a public health system. Melanie is married with 3 grown children.
“The only way to make change is to first recognize you have a problem,” says Melanie Leckovic. “This seems so obvious but in a large structure like the healthcare system this often gets lost.” Front-line workers do not always realize that what is so obvious to them is not as obvious to decision-makers who work far away from the daily realities they control.
But there is a way to get the message across, says Melanie. “Here in BC we have a formal process to advise management of unsafe situations — the filing of Professional Responsibility Forms (PRFs). Each time we are faced with unsafe staffing, we document it and send it to the Assessment Committee which is comprised of representation from the union and the employer.” It is the purpose of the committee to “assess and make recommendations for unresolved work practice issues which impact nurses’ ability to provide safe, competent and ethical care.”
Following a period of being severely short-staffed in 2006, hospital ER nurses started using the PRF process. Two significant developments came out of this. “Each time they were short staffed to the point of potential risk to patients, the employer knew about it and had to accept some responsibility for that. This process was formal rather than anecdotal.”
“But the second benefit was perhaps even more important. The nurses knew things were bad. They all experienced it and everyone heard the stories. Like the night when there were 15 admitted patients to only one critical care nurse. The filing of these forms allowed the members to gather hard statistics.” Nurses collected information including the numbers of patients visiting the ER each day, admissions, length of stays, the numbers and skill sets of staff on duty. They ended up amassing a 500-page document of their findings.
“The employer could not ignore the solid evidence that things were getting critical,” said Melanie. After the report was issued, things began to change. “The unit saw more nurses, more support, and more resources.”
“It isn’t always convenient to fill in the forms, especially when you are under such pressure in the moment, but it is important to recognize how we can all make a difference. Change can happen,” Leckovic added.