Key recommendations on regulating nurses a “roadmap” for broad-based change, says HEU

B.C.’s 4,500 Licenced Practical Nurses would have greater roles in efforts to ease nursing shortage

While the public may be increasingly focused on health care bargaining, the Hospital Employees’ Union says health care professions regulatory changes proposed at the end of March in a weighty 1,400-page government report shouldn’t be overlooked because, if implemented, they will have a positive impact on efforts to ease B.C.’s nursing shortage.

“This is a road map for government to follow to break down the professional boundaries that prevent trained care providers from working to their full capacities,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “It will also promote greater cooperation among health professionals and open the door to improved access to a broader range of health care services for British Columbians,” he said.

Allnutt points to specific recommendations made in the B.C. Health Professions Council report covering Licenced Practical Nurses, which he says will be “a catalyst for broad-based solutions to help ease our acute shortage of nursing staff.”

For the first time ever, the report calls for the legal recognition of procedures that LPNs are trained to perform including patient assessments, administering medications, sterile dressing changes, tracheostomy care and urinary catheterization. Another breakthrough, says Allnutt, is the recommendations that LPNs would no longer have to work under the direct supervision of a physician or a registered nurse.

“Taken together, these are positive steps that will remove any lingering uncertainty that has prevented LPNs from being effectively utilized providing bedside care while we’re experiencing a nursing shortage,” he said. “It will also provide for more effective allocation of nursing resources and provide a positive impetus to expand LPN training and recruitment programs.”

Allnutt says HEU will continue to press government and employers to increase utilization of LPNs as a logical solution to the nursing shortage. While over the last 15 years B.C. has poorest record of LPN utilization of any province in Canada, Allnutt notes that HEU has worked successfully with Victoria to expand training opportunities and create 320 new LPN positions in hospitals and long-term care facilities over the last two years.

The Health Professions Council — an independent government advisory body — released the report this week after six years of study to implement recommendations from B.C.’s 1991 Royal Commission on Health Care.