Leadership Notes

Giving nurses the respect they deserve

December 20, 2023

by Linda Silas, President of the Canadian Federation of Nurses’ Unions

Dear CFNU Members,

Anyone paying attention to the crisis facing our health care systems can clearly see how incredibly valuable nurses are. Indeed, I was glad to hear our Federal Health Minister Mark Holland emphasize the importance of retaining our nurses when we met in October. Nurses are the anchor of Canada’s health care system, and without you it would cease to function.

Yet, you continue to contend with untenable work environments: crushing and unsafe workloads, difficult and dangerous conditions, and a lack of respect from employers and governments. We can forgive even the most dedicated among us if they’re looking for the exit sign.

Respect and retention go hand-in-hand – a message we have taken directly to the country’s premiers and health ministers. Respect for you as individuals with lives outside of work. Respect for you as professionals who need and deserve the conditions and resources to do your jobs with the fullness and pride you and your patients deserve.

From the moment the federal government reinstated Canada’s Chief Nursing Officer, the CFNU has been working with Dr. Leigh Chapman to improve the lives of nurses across the country. Months of collaborative work, including input from CFNU members at our biennial convention in June, have culminated in a federal Nursing Retention Toolkit to bring nurse-led retention initiatives across the country.

Ensuring safe hours of work, implementing nurse-to-patient ratios, flexible scheduling, competitive compensation packages, enhanced mental health support – this is what respect for nurses looks like.

Collaboration between governments, employers and the front lines remains critical to creating the concrete change I know you need to see in your day-to-day. For this toolkit to see true success, we will need the full support of health care employers and our governments – including funding tied to implementing these critical retention initiatives.

The CFNU is calling on governments to use this year’s increase to the Canada Health Transfer and funding from the bilateral agreements to invest in proven nurse retention initiatives and enable the robust recovery of our country’s health care system.

The challenges facing our public health care system are nationwide, but they are far from insurmountable.

Remember, our collective power is one of our biggest strengths. You are part of the largest movement of nurses in North America – 250,000 strong – from British Columbia to Newfoundland and Labrador. Rallying together behind our common challenges and solutions, I know we will build a stronger public health care system where nurses have the respect we deserve.

In unwavering solidarity,

Linda Silas
President of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions

Join the call for governments to fully fund nurse retention initiatives and end the nursing shortage: https://nursesunions.ca/completetherecovery