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Sheila Ebbett, NBNU

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Sheila Ebbett, NBNU

Sheila is a general duty nurse at Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital, Fredericton, N.B. Currently she works in the Post Anesthetic Care Unit while in the past she has worked in the ER and the General Surgery Unit. Sheila spends her off-work time parenting/coaching, playing hockey, golf, and in Union activities.

It was amidst the backlash of the “downsizing” and “rightsizing” of the early 1990s in New Brunswick that beginning practitioners entering the profession lost a precious professional lifeline. Squeezed out of the picture were direct supervisors such as head nurses or clinical supervisors, many opting, not out of choice, to contend with mountains of paper rather than coaching and mentoring young nurses entering the profession, as part of their everyday work.

Sheila Ebbett, a general duty nurse at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital, Fredericton, N.B., remembers the ripple effect of that void: “Young nurses were floundering and many journeyed a long way down the tubes before their deficiencies were recognized and addressed.”

“What was happening is that many new grads were not thriving. There wasn’t anyone to assess their day-to-day performance, recognize shortcomings, and propose supportive actions such as moving them to another area or reducing their workload,” said Sheila Ebbett.

So as a result of losing new recruits because they felt unsupported, the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital, in 2000, introduced the concept of the “resource nurse” charged with supervising nursing care and contributing to performance appraisals. Senior nurses assume the role for a six-month period on a rotating basis.

“The resource nurse concept is working,” says Ms. Ebbett. “We’re picking up more people that need to work on certain skills or develop particular competencies. As a result, fewer new recruits are falling through the cracks. It’s also had a positive impact on retention,” she said.

“It’s not a perfect system. What I’m happy about is that the importance of our senior nursing leaders and their vital role in mentoring was recognized,” said Ms. Ebbett.

“I’m hopeful that further innovative ideas can be introduced to provide new graduates with an even ‘softer place to fall,'” she concluded.

Sara Dowe, NSNU

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Sara Dowe, NSNU

Sara Dowe, a nurse at Colchester Hospital, believes that if more hospitals provided on-site childcare, some recruitment and retention issues would be resolved, particularly for younger nurses. Apart from nursing and her family, Sara enjoys cross-stitching and reading.

The bright decorations, smiling faces of toddlers and pre-schoolers, and the warm atmosphere that greet you are telltale signs that Near to Me daycare is special.

As you learn more about the early beginnings of the daycare, and how it has evolved, you begin to understand how truly special it really is.

In March of 1990, the doors to this home-like daycare opened to children of employees at the Colchester Regional Hospital in Truro, Nova Scotia. The centre has since provided ease of access to healthcare workers whose shift work requires an untraditional approach to service. By opening at 6:30 am and closing as late as at 7:15 pm, Near to Me offers just that.

Located at the base of the slow rise that leads to the hospital, the non-profit centre is the brainchild of the hospital, and the Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union and CUPE locals. In the beginning, many employees of the hospital volunteered their time to help renovate the house that would eventually become the daycare.

Near to Me now offers care for 29 children per day, 60% of whom are children of nurses and other healthcare workers. More importantly, it provides much needed peace of mind for moms and dads, and a bonus for their employer.

Sara Hazelton is the Director of the centre which employs 8 workers. She says that studies have proven on-site daycare facilities offer benefits for both the employee and the employer. “On-site child care goes a long way to reduce tardiness and absenteeism. It reduces turnover. For parents, there are the obvious attractions — they know their child is near should anything happen. They are invested in the daycare on so many levels,” says Hazelton.

“I moved here from Halifax with two small children. Without Near to Me, I probably would not have been able to work. They offer space to hospital employees first. I was able to start work right away without a break in service,” says Dowe.

Dowe says that Near to Me takes the worry out of raising a family and working as a nurse, enabling her to concentrate on her patients and her job.

“I’ve been called into work at the last minute and in a panic, you rush out the door with the kids. Knowing that I can take my kids to a daycare on hospital property, have time to undress them and get them settled and not have to throw them in the door and run, is a big deal to me. The hospital daycare allows me to get to work without that regular morning stress so I can start my day on a positive note.”


Hosp Daycare

Melanie Leckovic, BCNU

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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.