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Nursing Week 2022

During the earlier waves of the pandemic, there was a shift in who our society saw as heroes; it wasn't celebrities or sports stars, but health care workers on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. Health care professionals and support staff received much-deserved recognition for the work, time, energy and commitment that is required to care for those in need in our hospitals, our long-term care homes, and all corners of our community. You have and continue to answer the call, serving our patients, clients and residents with courage and commitment.

The past two years have both highlighted and reinforced the fact that health care services are precious - as are the people who provide them. What I have learned over this period is that everyone wants and needs nurses. I'm sure you have seen this and felt this as well, and I'm also sure at times it has left you tired or overwhelmed. But I want you to know that we are focused on rebuilding for a positive future for our profession, and I am hopeful about our way forward.

Nursing Week 2022 Profiles
This year we celebrate a number of nurses from across the region.
Click here to view our Nursing Week 2022 profiles

The way your work and the role of nurses was highlighted during this time has garnered new interest in nursing and our profession. Becoming a nurse, like being any health care professional, takes time, education, experience and support, and we are working with our partners across the system to ensure all those elements are reflected in our recruitment and retention plans.

This year, there are 828 nursing students graduating in Manitoba, many of whom will enter the workforce and provide additional resources across the province. Our expansion of 259 nursing education seats in Manitoba is also scheduled to begin this year - this will include 15 combined bachelor of nursing and licensed practical nursing seats at Universit√© de Saint-Boniface, 55 licensed practical nursing seats through Assiniboine Community College in Portage la Prairie and rural rotating sites, 32 registered nursing and registered psychiatric nursing seats at Brandon University, 120 registered nursing seats at the University of Manitoba and 37 additional nursing seats at University College of the North.We are also supporting the provincial initiative to remove barriers and help Internationally Educated Nurses become licensed in Manitoba. The project has received an overwhelming response, and is another way we are working to increase available nursing resources in our region. 

Another promising initiative is the introduction of Undergraduate Nursing Employee (UNE) positions, through which senior nursing students can gain valuable clinical experience in a paid role that allows them to learn, develop and grow, while also encouraging them to stay with us to practice at that site or in that program area upon graduation. There were 50 UNE positions in the WRHA in winter 2021/2022, and there will be an additional 92 UNE positions for spring/summer 2022, including in medicine, chronic care and surgery at St. Boniface, Grace, Seven Oaks, Victoria, Misericordia and Deer Lodge Centre. This program has already seen success in the Northern health region, where a new nurse is working in the area of her former UNE position in the Pas.

We also have 122 nursing senior practicum students for the summer, in both hospitals and health care centres including St. Boniface, Grace, Seven Oaks, Victoria, Concordia, Deer Lodge Centre, and Riverview Health Centre, as well as in Community Health programs including Public Health, Home Care, Primary Care and Palliative Care.

After 32 years, I have not forgotten the feelings of being a newly graduated nurse and the first years of my career. There was undoubtedly pride in graduating and becoming a “real” nurse, but there was also anxiety, uncertainty and even terror. Mentorship is key to ensuring our new nurses thrive. It pairs our many experienced, talented and knowledgeable nurses across our system with new graduates to share their wisdom and guidance, throughout their first year and beyond. Our mentorship initiative is currently being revamped and I encourage you to consider this important role and approach your manager about how you can support.

Whether you graduated last year, 10 years ago or 32 years ago like me, it's so important that we nurses have the opportunity to advance both our skills and our careers. To help with this, we are offering a number of continuing and special education opportunities, including our WOW  (What Opportunities We Share in Career Development) Wednesday speaker series featuring sessions with nurses from different sectors and types of jobs across the province. We've also launched a speaker series focused on leadership development, which features senior leaders from across the system. You can find more information here.

Keeping nurses in the health care system is also a top priority, and I want you to know that your voices are playing an important role in our retention efforts. What I heard from you in the recent Employee Opinion Survey, as well as the recent stay survey, was that you want to work in collaborative environments where you feel respected by your colleagues, and that your knowledge and skill sets are valued and fully utilized. You also want flexibility in rotations and to work at a location that's convenient for you. The provincial Nursing Workforce Stabilization group has brought together nurse and human resource leaders who are working through what we need to have and begin to offer nurses to both recruit and retain, as well as develop and support nurses who are and continue to be successful, strong and thrive in their career. Your feedback from these surveys is helping guide those efforts, and I want to hear more about what we can do - what is working and what do you need more of to continue to support your needs.

I also recognize that even before the pandemic, there were challenges as our system went through major changes. What we are also doing as part of the Nursing Workforce Stabilization project is an in-depth review of our patients' needs, and the staffing and skills that are required to meet those needs. We will be using evidenced-based tools to better understand patient complexity, stability and predictability. We will also be engaging you, our nurses, in the review of their needs to share your insights, and having open conversations about barriers and opportunities for education, staffing and skill mix in our care environments. These tools and approach have been used successfully in other jurisdictions, and a pilot test was successfully completed recently at the Victoria General Hospital. A plan to roll this out across the WRHA is underway in the next few months. This is an exciting opportunity to have the voices of the teams providing patient care heard.

Finally, though certainly not least of all, I want to acknowledge that May 12 is Indigenous Nurses Day in Manitoba, and thank our Indigenous nurses. You have answered the call through your contributions at every critical point in our COVID-19 response. Your commitment to our community has helped us ensure that everyone we serve gets the care they need.

I am and continue to be deeply grateful for the nurses across our system and organization, and the work you do every day to support the health and wellbeing of our community. I also thank you for your dedication and courage as we take the next step forward together - despite everything we're facing, I am hopeful that our future is bright, and I hope you can feel that too.

Sincerely,

Mary Anne Lynch
Regional Lead, Health Services - Acute Care & Chief Nursing Officer

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