Your kudos, your concerns

March / April 2018   Comments

Leading up to the vote at the annual meeting on the proposal to expand membership to all nurses, the association has been consulting members and non-members

A CNA online survey to solicit nurses’ reactions to the association’s proposed plan to open membership to all nurses indicates that many believe a united profession is long overdue; however, some feel that distinct nursing voices could be diluted under one association.

As of March 21, 147 respondents had completed the survey, 92 per cent of whom identified as RNs. Of the respondents, about 60 per cent indicated they feel pleased or very pleased by the proposed membership expansion; about five per cent indicated they feel indifferent; and about 35 per cent reported being concerned or very concerned.

Three main concerns have emerged so far in the comments respondents were invited to provide. CEO Mike Villeneuve shares his thoughts on each one.

“Already I see the employer grouping us all together, and feel my RN designation isn’t given the respect nor the uniqueness that it should have. I’m feeling quite threatened by the “a nurse is a nurse” thought. The fact that my federal body that represents me is moving the same way makes me nervous for my profession.” — respondent

Concern: The distinct voice of each nursing category will be lost.

MV: We envision CNA as a hub for Canadian nursing. With more than 400,000 regulated nurses spread across 13 provinces and territories and dozens of specialty nursing associations and interest groups, the nursing profession is at risk of becoming a fragmented collection of groups speaking disjointed messages. We believe nursing needs a central structure to rally and connect all groups and individuals.

If the vote on the membership expansion is passed at the annual meeting on June 18, CNA will undertake a governance review to evaluate the structures we’d have to put in place to be inclusive of both the unique and collective needs of the different regulated categories. One example might be creating advisory councils for each regulated category — to hear all viewpoints — along with an equitable governing board that helps each group feel fully included. We will consult with the different categories of nurses about their needs and the best ways to support them. A unified structure would allow us to focus on each category and tailor specific projects and advocacy for that group, while marshalling the power of our numbers and our unity when a strong collective voice is required.

“To me, allowing LPNs membership within the CNA is for more membership fees and not in the best interests of RNs across the country.” — respondent

Concern: This proposed expansion is really about securing new revenue.

MV: CNA is a not-for-profit organization; any revenues are used to support our work to advance nursing and health, and to provide our members with the programs and services they expect of their national professional association. As with any other organization, CNA requires stable revenues to survive and thrive.

At the core of its mandate, CNA aims to advance nursing excellence and positive health outcomes in the public interest. By creating a strong national and inclusive nursing body, CNA will gain a stronger advocacy voice and more financial resources for research and educational programs for nurses that are more reflective of today’s nursing world.

“The RN stream is at risk in society where employers are willing to hire the cheapest health-care provider to provide care to the most vulnerable…my mother, father, sister, brother and yours deserve better than this.” — respondent

Concern: RN positions are being filled by nurses in other categories.

MV: Canadians deserve the right provider delivering the right care (appropriate, safe, effective and satisfying) in the right place and time. Let’s be clear. CNA has always opposed the practice of employers replacing any care providers based purely on saving money, and we will continue to do so. Economics will always influence policy decisions, but rigorous evidence, experience and common sense must also drive the decision-making. We will continue to bring these considerations to policy tables.

The needs of Canadians are changing, and the ways we deploy our nursing workforces will change too. The jobs of 1950 are different from those today and those we’ll do in 2050. The evolving competencies required to care for different populations may mean having many types of care providers. But there are and will continue to be huge unmet demands for care; there is plenty of work to go around.

In advocating for nursing and health, it’s CNA’s duty to deliver evidence and advice to governments, employers and Canadians about how we safely deploy the right number and mix of nurses — and in what circumstances a specific category of nurse is warranted.

We are not suggesting that strong professional representation among the regulated categories should be abolished in the provinces and territories; we are talking about ways to build a more effective, inclusive voice at the pan-Canadian level. We know from other associations that there is power in having strong, intra-professional collaboration within one association, working together to deliver messages about how nursing, and all of us in it, can deliver better health, better care and better value for Canadians.

Will we have challenges as we come together? For sure. Can we overcome them? We can, we must, and we will. Canadians need that from us. We are much stronger together.

Take the survey at
For information on the annual meeting, go to

CEO reaches out directly

Villeneuve sought feedback on this issue from several nursing partners, thought leaders, novice nurses and students he’s met throughout his career. He asked each of them to offer an honest opinion, for or against the proposed change.

Sue Ness, RN, MN
Fredericton, N.B.

Kudos to the board of directors on the thoughtful deliberation that led to their unanimous support for opening membership in CNA to nurses in all regulated categories. As I witness the evolution of the profession, I truly believe it is a decision whose time has come. It has never been more important for nurses and nursing to have that national voice of advocacy that can be sustained over time and have the ability to deal with the complex issues facing us. Good luck with the new vision for this strong and well-respected organization!

Glennie Aromin
Year 4 BScN student
University of Alberta, Edmonton

As a nursing student nearing the end of my studies to become a registered nurse, I have been painstakingly taught about the importance of collaboration, not only within our profession but within the health-care system. I am pleased to say that I will soon be a member of an association that takes steps to foster cohesion among all nurses. A suggestion that I would like to make to achieve this goal is to explore possibilities of integrating interdisciplinary courses within the nursing programs and including not only RN students but other nursing categories.

Barb Mildon, RN, PhD, CHE
VP, Practice, HR, Research, Centre for Education & Organization Development, and
Chief Nursing Executive, Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences

It is time for us to welcome every nurse in Canada to join CNA. It is time for CNA to at last truly be the national nursing professional association for all nurses in our country — as it was in 1908 when CNA was founded. It is time for each of us to live nursing’s core values of compassion and respect for the inherent dignity, worth and uniqueness not only in our care of every patient, client and resident, but also in our relationship with each other. It is time for us to replace the rhetoric of protectionism and hierarchy with connection, cohesion and communication. It is time for us to vote YES!

Ann Mann, RN, MN
Executive Director/Registrar
College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Nova Scotia

As an RN for over 49 years, I am absolutely thrilled that CNA is moving to fully recognize the family of nursing. 

Kathleen MacMillan, PhD, RN, FAAN
Montague, P.E.I.

This is a long overdue move for Canadian nursing and for CNA. We are all nurses and share a common heritage and vision for the health of Canadians — if not always completely in accord about how to get there. This will provide a platform for much needed dialogue and intra-professional collaboration and a clear distinction between labour union and professional issues. We are facing yet another nursing shortage and this is the time for nursing to speak with one voice to the policy-makers and to advocate for how the profession — with the most underutilized and numerous of all health-care providers — can support the system to meet the needs of Canadians as we address the oncoming challenges.

Paisly Symenuk
President and co-founder, Global Association of Student and Novice Nurses

I am so privileged to be able to interact with and represent the interests of student and novice nurses from across the globe. When speaking with them about the future of nursing and what their ideal future for nursing looks like, it always focuses on nurses supporting nurses — across different practice areas, different designations, different roles, different countries and, particularly for us, different generations. The nurse leaders of tomorrow want the future for nursing to be one of unity, shared and representative voice, and support for the betterment of our patients, communities, populations and our planet. For sustained and impactful change on the complex issues that we see in health today, we need all of us, standing together, supporting one another, and still respecting the distinct expertise we can all bring, whether we are a registered nurse student or a licensed practical nurse with 40 years of experience. The world needs all of us.

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