It’s just what the doctor ordered: A celebration held for and in support of nurses.
The Canada Room at the National Arts Centre was packed Thursday for The Night Shift: Lighting Up the Night for Nurses party, hosted by the Canadian Nurses Foundation. The evening raised funds for the foundation’s scholarship program and its focus on advancing inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility.
The room had a chic and stylish feel with upscale lounge vibes and tropical decor to go with the Miami theme. A team of executive directors from The Ottawa Hospital got into the spirit of things by arriving with giant inflatable pink flamingos, the iconic symbol of South Florida.
These planning principles reflect the hospital’s ambitious vision of the future of health care in our city.
The evening, energetically hosted by Stefan Keyes from CTV News Ottawa, served as a much-needed pick-me-up for a healthcare profession that’s faced the toughest healthcare crisis in decades with the COVID pandemic.
On hand to welcome guests were Canadian Nurses Association president Sylvain Brousseau and Health Canada’s new chief nursing officer, Leigh Chapman, who received a CNF scholarship when she was completing her PhD in nursing.
“It’s a critical time in health care and it’s really important to have moments like this to come together and celebrate the nursing profession, because nurses are demoralized and burnt out and we need to lift them up and acknowledge the vital contribution that they make to care,” she told OBJ.social of a sector that remains “the backbone of the healthcare system”.
Hospitals are currently facing dire nursing shortages. The problem isn’t so much in recruiting; there is a record-number of nurses entering the profession across the country, said Chapman. “The tricky part is retaining them. The working conditions are so tough that they’re leaving.
“We need to really work on retention because we know we can’t recruit our way out of this crisis.”
The federal government reinstated the position of chief nursing officer this year, after a decade of going without one, to give nurses a stronger voice in the federal decision-making and health-care policy discussions. There are currently more than 400,000 nurses in Canada.
Speakers included The Ottawa Hospital’s president and CEO, Cameron Love, and its chief of nursing and operations, Suzanne Madore, who started her career as a front-line nurse.
“Nursing is absolutely the best profession in the world,” she told the room, eliciting cheers from the audience. “It is both the most challenging but yet the most rewarding.”
She thanked the nurses in the room for their efforts “not just over the past two years, which have been some of the most challenging that I have seen in my 33-year career in nursing, but for everything you do each and every day.”
During his speech, Love gave nurses full credit for helping to pull healthcare through the current crisis. “The pandemic has thrown so many challenges at our healthcare system and, while we’ve seen so many impacts to access to care and to the sustainability of our programs and services, what we’ve been able to maintain is 100 per cent due to all the nurses across the sector,” he said. “Your commitment to patients and colleagues, your care and compassionate values, and your incredible innovation is what has gotten us through every day, every week and every year over the last couple of years.”
The hospital executive said he’s starting to see some improvements as the healthcare system works to rebuild itself. “It will take time to get us there, but we will get there.”
The room also heard from Robin Buckland, Indigenous Services Canada’s executive director and chief nursing officer, and local business leader Michael Church, a board member with the Canadian Nurses Foundation and managing director of Avison Young Commercial Real Estate in Ottawa. Also spotted from the CNF board was Megan Wallace, a law partner at Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall.
Attendees included federal Minister of Seniors Kamal Khera, who used to work as a nurse, and Dr. Rob Beanlands, deputy director general of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. He was there with nurse leaders from the cardiovascular health centre, as well as with his niece, Sarah Beanlands, who’s a nurse with Ottawa Public Health.
Jo-Anne Poirier, president and CEO of VON Canada, arrived with Shirley Westeinde, who, long before she blazed a career in construction, started as a VON nurse. Kimberly LeBlanc, president-elect for the Canadian Nurses Association, brought along award-winning journalist Robert Fife, Ottawa bureau chief for the Globe and Mail Also seen was Michael Cleland, founding partner of Cleland Jardine, which was one of the sponsors. The structural engineering firm donated a bunch of its tickets so that more nurses could attend the party for free.
According to its media release, the Canadian Nurses Foundation has awarded more than 2,000 scholarships to nursing students and nurse researchers across Canada and has invested more than $12 million in educational scholarships and nurse-led research. It’s also raised more than $1 million for Indigenous nursing education and research, and has provided scholarships to more than 200 Indigenous nurses. As well, it has established an annual program that awarded 34 scholarships this year to nursing students and nurse researchers who identify as Black, Indigenous or People of Colour.