Annual meeting of nurses: A grand event

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In April, about 650 RNs and nursing students attended the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) annual general meeting (AGM). There was praise and celebration for another year of accomplishments, including those of individual members who received recognition awards, as well as those of the association’s Best Practice Spotlight Organizations, celebrating a decade of partnership with RNAO. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne paid a visit mid-day, offering a warm, 20-minute address and ongoing support for the nursing profession (her daughter will study nursing this fall). She also made a much-anticipated announcement of changes that will expand the role of nurses, and ultimately benefit the people of Ontario.

Wynne said she recognizes that nurses want their scope of practice to match their expertise, and promised to work with the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) to expand that scope to include dispensing medication in specific circumstances (for example, when patients do not have quick access to a pharmacy). She also promised to identify other opportunities to expand nurses’ scope, including allowing RNs to prescribe certain medications and NPs to prescribe controlled substances.

RNAO CEO Doris Grinspun spoke on behalf of members about how thrilled nurses are to have Wynne in the position of premier, and to hear the announcement. “The expansion of scope of practice will revolutionize Ontario, Premier, and it’s urgently needed,” she said, adding that one more thing is also desperately needed. “As much as our (former) Premier Dalton McGuinty was fantastic in the first two terms, in the third, we lost ground on RN-to-population ratios. We are now the second-worst in the country, and we can’t afford it. We are asking for 9,000 additional RNs…we (and the pubic) need that, and we need that desperately,” she said.

RNAO President Rhonda Seidman-Carlson was equally pleased with the premier’s announcement, and pointed out it’s about time Ontario catch up with other jurisdictions that are already ahead in this regard. “If RNs can diagnose common ailments such as an ear infection or a sore throat, and prescribe medications in the U.K., why not in Ontario?” she asked.

Wynne acknowledge the relationship RNAO has already established with the government. “I’m proud to embrace that close relationship,” she said. “I want our new government to continue to work with the RNAO to build on the great legacy of what we’ve achieved together.”

“We’ve been striving for innovation, and to enshrine your best practices, creating a system that serves patients and rewards the professionals who care for our loved ones. I want to keep up this important work, and to do that, I’m going to need your help,” Wynne said. “The expertise in this room, and the work of the RNAO is so valuable to creating good public policy and building a healthy and fair society. I’m excited about what we can continue to achieve as we empower your profession and work together for a healthier Ontario.”

To view the premier’s speech online, and to watch other presentations, including those from Health Minister Deb Matthews, PC and NDP leaders Tim Hudak and Andrea Horwath (respectively), and others, visit rnao.ca/news/agm-2013-video-highlights.