Earlier in June 2017, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU) Biennial Convention in Calgary through UNA Local 115’s Labour Education Fund. This was an eye-opening experience as it was my first national nursing event and I was able to connect with nurses across Canada.
One of the plenary sessions was about “Next Steps Post TRC”. Dr. Bernice Downey, a medical anthropologist of Oji/Cree and Celtic heritage, emphasized the cruciality for health care professionals to develop cultural competency and to provide cultural safety for all patients. Dr. Bernice Downey stated in her presentation that the suicidal rate amongst the Indigenous people was significantly higher than the average Canadians. Many of the Indigenous people, even the ones who did not attend Residential schools, are to this day experiencing the intergenerational impact from witnessing the long-lasting effects of Residential schools on their loved ones.
It was very moving to hear Alice Blondin-Perrin, a Residential school survivor, speak about her own experience at the Residential school and the many years of abuse she endured from being assimilated into the Residential school way of living. She spoke about her transformation from having frequent nightmares long after leaving Residential school into being able to live her life when she started to write about her feelings and past experiences into her book, “My Heart Shook Like a Drum”.
Flora Simpson was one of the speakers during the plenary session and she is a Registered Nurse, who was born and raised and currently working in Norway House, Manitoba. It was very inspiring to hear her talking about how by being one of the members of a predominantly male Indigenous Committee, she is actively advocating for nurses’ vital role in public health. As part of her advocacy, she aided in the development of one of the first nursing programs to be delivered on-reserve.
Another eye-opening experience was the workshop that I attended, “Conversations at Work: Survival Strategies for Speaking Up!”. It discussed the elements of successful communication within workplaces, the importance and power of positive, non-verbal communication in building rapport and the techniques to enhance communication and assertiveness in the workplace. This workshop was very invaluable to my nursing career as it, not only helps me to develop trusting rapport with patients, but also to prevent conflicts and resolve them effectively, especially working in a high stress acute care environment.
I also witnessed the passion whom all the nurses across Canada had towards having a safe workplace and maintaining the high standard of care for their patients. For instance, Manitoba Nurses Union have done research on how Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from workplace affects nurses, while Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union have researched on how the nursing profession has the high rate of Workplace Violence amongst essential service professions. They have done a tremendous amount of work in letting the public and government know about their findings through lobbying and advertisements. Through CFNU’s new mobile application, “Speak Up”, nurses now have an easy platform to make their voices heard at a Municipal, Provincial and Federal level.
Overall, this convention has provided me with skills and tools for my workplace and a deeper understanding of how the unions are working hard together in ensuring patient and staff safety for Canada.