Fucile said Thursday she was struck by the high number of people in Sudbury who do not have a family physician.
She called Sudbury District Nurse Practitioner Clinics “a shining example” of an alternate way to provide high-quality care to people who need it.
The Sudbury clinic, which has a branch in Chapleau and will open a second in Greater Sudbury soon, was started by nurse practitioners Marilyn Butcher and Roberta Heale. The model has proven so successful, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has approved the creation of 25 similar clinics in the province. Three are to open soon, including one in Sault Ste. Marie.
Fucile spoke at a meeting of the Sudbury-Manitoulin RNAO on Wednesday night at the Caruso Club.
Fucile said many of her member nurses are suffering “moral distress when trying to deliver health care in the hallways in emergency.”
“We have to find ways to reduce the moral distress,” said Fusile.
Many of Ontario’s nurses are getting close to retirement age and unless ways are found to “repair” their workplaces, many will choose to leave the profession, she said.
There is a large population of nurses aged 25-28, but there is a huge gap in the number of nurses in between the new nurses and late-career ones. That could result in shortages of nurses in the near future.
The province must look at ways not just to recruit nurses, but to retain the ones it has. What nurses have told her that what they want to remain in the profession is educational opportunities, “reasonable workloads” and a quality work environment.
Fucile praised the province for funding programs such as the new graduate initiative that pays graduating nurses for six months on the job where they can learn clinical skills from experienced nurses.
The RNAO also endorses a program for late-career nurses in which they do their regular duties for 80 per cent of their workday and spend 20 per cent of their time mentoring young nurses.
Because nursing is a physically demanding profession, the latter program offers senior nurses a break, resulting in them staying healthier, remaining in the profession longer, working less overtime and taking fewer sick days.
Both of those programs are in place at Sudbury Regional Hospital.
David McNeil is vice-president of clinical programs and chief nursing officer at Sudbury Regional Hospital, and regional representative on the RNAO’s board of directors.
McNeil said the association is “strongly concerned” about issues related to international recruitment of nurses to fill nursing vacancies.
The association believes Ontario has the resources here to solve nurse shortages, and finds it morally objectionable to recruit nurses from developing nations where they are needed to care for people there.
Paul-Andre Gauthier, head of the nursing program at College Boreal, and Nicole Shank, a surgical clinical nurse at Sudbury Regional Hospital, are co-presidents of the Sudbury and District chapter of RNAO.
They and McNeil took Fucile on a tour of Sudbury Regional Hospital and Maison Vale Inco Hospice.
Fucile said another issue for nurses is the difference in what they are paid for working in different organizations. Hospital nurses, for instance, often make more money than those working in home care or in a facility such as a hospice.
Part of the reason for that is the competitive bidding process in providing home nursing care, said Fusile. “Every dollar that goes to profit” hurts the level of health care, she said.
The RNAO, with 27,000 members, represents the nursing profession. For more about the RNAO, visit its website at www.rnao.org.
Originally published in The Sudbury Star