I am writing this on Christmas Eve, getting ready to go to work over the holidays once again. I cannot remember my last holiday off, but such is the sacrifice of a nurse, even one as new to the profession as I am.
I entered the nursing program in September of 2005, told for years of the desperate shortage of nurses, how I would be guaranteed a good wage and job security for the rest of my days because of the cuts that happened in the 1990s. Not even one month after finishing school and starting a temporary position, Capital Health’s website was wiped clean of nursing job postings, most gone overnight. My fellow nurses and I were taken aback — what was going on in a province that was supposedly so in need of this skilled profession?
The months since have been no better. Government officials have attacked the profession with numerous wild accusations: we earn too much, we have too many breaks, we work part-time so we can get overtime hours, there are too many of us and we can be replaced by lower skilled workers. Essentially they are saying they do not value our place, our skills and our time. They threaten bed cuts and hospital closures, program shutdowns and less education opportunities.
For many nurses in the province, this is a terrible stress. They provided years of service and sacrifices, only to have their job threatened when they need it the most. They are the ones looking after both sick parents and young children while trying to earn enough to retire comfortably. How many holidays have these nurses missed? How many milestones in their children’s lives gone because they were working a 16-hour shift? How many missed breaks and weekends away from those they loved because of the call of duty? We knew what we were getting into; nursing is a hard job. It’s mentally straining, physically demanding, emotionally draining and spiritually depressing. But despite the hardships, we care. We give up for those in need. It’s what drew us to the profession in the first place. Where else can you see people being born, operated on and come back from traumatic injuries all in one week? All we want is thanks and acknowledgement. And this province is not giving it to us.
So, I feel for the older nurses. The ones forced to leave early who are no longer around to guide and educate the new ones like me. I feel for the patients in this province, now and in the future, because the government cuts are going to fall heaviest on them. I feel for these people because they do not have my choice — to leave. No, Ron Liepert and Stephen Duckett, I will not be staying. Thanks for helping me pay for my education, I’m sure the other provinces would love to have me. Good luck in your cuts: I hope you can balance your all-important budget.
Lorna Bennett, St. Albert