The BC Nurses’ Union hosted the ‘Vigil to Heal Healthcare’ on Monday, May 9. Nurses, first responders, and families of patients gathered in Victoria’s Confederation Garden Court to share the grief they’ve experience through the tumultuous past few years.
“Nurses and families haven’t been able to come together to honour and remember the lives that have been lost throughout the COVID pandemic as well as the opioid crisis,” said BCNU President Aman Grewal.
“We wanted to give them a place where they can do that so we decided to do that during Nurses Week.”
Throughout these hard times, The nurses in the BC healthcare system have been a resource that became extensively strained.
“They are overworked and don’t feel respected, they have dangerously low staffing levels, and yet they are still expected to continue to care for the patients,” said Grewal.
“This means that before, a nurse may have 4-5 patients, now there might be 10 or more patients assigned to just one nurse.”
Based on a survey done by the Union last year, 82% of union members said that their mental health deteriorated through the pandemic while 51% said that they are more likely to leave the profession in the next two years.
“They might go 12 hours without going to the washroom or having anything to eat or drink,” Grewal explained. “That doesn’t happen in any other workplace besides nursing.”
Aside from nurses, BCNU also invited other unions and MLA’s of the local legislature to attend the event. During the vigil, the attendees were addressed by Grewal as well as BCNU Vice President Adriane Gear. A couple of nurses also shared both their personal and professional loss.
“The act of holding a dying patient’s hand while they lay intubated and alone or balancing an iPad so family members can say their final good-byes is something that stays with you,” says Grewal.
“It’s had a profound impact on our members, and they are not allowed to share this reality openly.”
Grewal explained how involved nurses are with treating patients suffering from a drug overdose.
“It’s the nurses who are going to be taking care of them until they are resuscitated,” said Grewal.
“Resuscitated could mean getting getting a couple of doses of the Narcan or applying a breathing tube if the patient is struggling breathing.”
Grewal also adds, “the families are supported by the nurses and the social workers when they’ve been notified or have been at the bedside of the patient in the ICU.”
“Nurses have a lot of empathy and care they provide to the entire family, a very wholistic approach.”
Although the work is very demanding and the current situation is not attractive, Grewal noted that there are still people who actively choose to become a nurse.
“People have a calling,” Grewal said. “Some have it in them that they want to become a nurse from an early age. It is a profound and respectable profession to be in.”
For these people and the rest of the nursing community, BCNU is working hard to address the issues plaguing the essential position. The union is headed into bargaining in the fall. They will negotiate working conditions, wages, and raise any other union members’ concerns and priorities.
“BCNU is just coming up to 41 years since it was formed,” said Grewal. “We continue advocate for our nurses’ working conditions to ensure it is safe”