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Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario      

Dear Colleagues: Welcome to our Saturday, February 20 report during this twelfth month of COVID-19 in Ontario. You can find earlier update reports here, including thematic pieces in Doris’ COVID-19 Blog. And, for the many resources RNAO offers on COVID-19, please visit the COVID-19 Portal where you will also find RNAO media hits and releases on the pandemic here. Daily Situational Reports from Ontario's MOH EOC can be found here. As always, feel free to share this report and links with anyone interested. Scroll down for information on several webinars and a survey that ends today.

RNAO remains extremely concerned about the premature lifting of public health restrictions in large parts of the province as a third wave of COVID driven by enormously dangerous new variants is almost certain to emerge. Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health said, “As a public health physician I have never been as concerned about the threat of COVID-19 to your health as I am now... The numbers don’t look so bad… But today’s variant count is the tip of an iceberg.” Dr. Lawrence Loh, the medical officer of health in Peel, added “The numbers are a mirage. You either pay now, or you pay more later.”

Friday’s announcement by Premier Ford keeping Toronto, Peel and North Bay-Parry Sound regions under a stay-at-home order was welcomed by RNAO. The decision to reopen York Region is wrong headed, as is the lack of directive to restrict movement between zones.

Nurses are glad the provincial government has heard the forceful plea from medical officers in these three regions to maintain the stay-at-home order. It is troubling, however, that the provincial government needs to be pushed to maintain restrictions at a time when these new variants are exponentially spreading in our communities.

The reality is that healthcare workers in ICUs, step-down units, LTC and many other frontline services are fighting exhaustion, burnout, and trauma. Many Ontarians will unnecessarily die or suffer severe and prolonged illness because of a preventable third wave of COVID. And many Ontarians will continue to see illness and death due to non-COVID reasons because they cannot get timely access to an overwhelmed healthcare service.

All of this is simply unacceptable. The government can financially support small businesses during this ordeal. No government has the power to bring back to life those who have died.

The idea of risking a third wave driven by new variants for the sake of opening the economy is just plain wrong. The only real and sustained opening of the economy will happen when we get the virus under control – RNAO and others have said this time and again. Health and the economy go together – they don’t work one against the other. Premier Ford has been told this numerous times; he chooses to ignore the advice even after a full year of pandemic tragedy.

RNAO continues to insist that the province must focus squarely on two critical aspects: mitigation through strict public health measures and vaccination through a bold rollout plan.

 

Ontario was forced to play catch up when it came to providing residents in LTC homes with their vaccines – not because we lacked vaccines, but because of wrong priorities in the rollout. As more supplies of the vaccine arrive, RNAO is urging the government to enlist thousands of nurses who work in primary care and home care, along with other community care providers such as physicians and pharmacists. These providers should be a central part of an efficient and quick vaccine rollout plan. For more detail on RNAO’s thoughts on the vaccine rollout, see our February 10th letter to the Premier here.

 

RNAO hears about COVID-19: A heart-to-heart dialogue for nurses

RNAO’s bi-weekly open forums serve as a heart-to-heart dialogue for nurses looking to share their experiences and challenges during this pandemic. I thank Victoria Alarcon, Communications Specialist at RNAO, for writing the following synopsis of our webinar series.


For an Ontario retired nurse, COVID-19 has affected her in many ways. “(I feel) guilty about not jumping back into the frontlines and not having the stamina for it.”

Another nurse shared her frustration with the pandemic: “What I’ve found difficult with COVID-19 on my mental health is that, especially in the beginning… (it was) all everyone talked about (on the radio, TV, and social media)… My brain needed a break from all the COVID talk.”

These nurses are not alone in how they feel as more than 180 participants have joined RNAO for its bi-weekly open forums to talk about how they are feeling during COVID-19.  The open forum series entitled Continuing the conversation – an open forum for nurses to share how they’re feeling during COVID-19 provides nurses across Ontario – especially those working on the frontlines – an opportunity to talk about how the pandemic is affecting their mental health and well-being at this challenging time.

Coordinated by RNAO’s Open Forum Planning Committee – Debra Lefebrvre, mental wellbeing specialist; Sara Fung and Amie Archibald-Varley, co-hosts of Gritty Nurse Podcast; and Breanna Martin and Maija Solo, co-hosts of What’s Beeping? A nursing podcast – the forums come after the passing of a young RN named Stefanie Van Nguyen who brought to light just how important mental health is for nurses and other health-care professionals during the pandemic.

For a long time, RNAO has advocated for mental health resources for nurses and in January 2019 launched with other health-care organizations the Nurses’ Health Program to help address the mental health needs of nurses. In addition, since the beginning of the pandemic, RNAO initiated the #TogetherWeCanDoIt campaign and created a COVID-19 portal to provide support for health providers and other essential services who are tackling COVID-19. Now in the 12th month of the pandemic, RNAO has launched an open forum series as an outlet for nurses to feel camaraderie and heart-to-heart support.

“These open forums are a conversation about the heart and ensuring we are there for one another and… for others who have not been able to join the conversation that we reach out to them,” said RNAO CEO, Doris Grinspun. “We want to make sure no one feels alone in this long journey that we are all going through together.”

On Feb. 3 for the first open forum, nurses from different sectors and regions shared their experiences over the last few months, sharing their grief over multiple deaths, the stress and fatigue from long shifts and their frustration about their inability to speak out to media. “Nursing is political. There are so many of us with a collective voice,” said Archibald-Varley, co-host of the Gritty Nurse Podcast. “There’s a lot of concerns, but we have to be political and have to speak up about the issues that mean the most to us.” Grinspun added that “life is political” and that we can either sit on the sidelines and not complain or participate in the process and shape it.

During the forum, several nurses also gave tips and resources for mental health, sharing the different ways they are combating stress and burnout. One nurse shared that she has been taking Zoom painting lessons while another talked about dedicating time to weight lifting and pets.

Continuing the conversation on Feb. 17, Grinspun moderated the second open forum which focused on the topics that nurses had highlighted in the first one: dealing with multiple losses, learning to let go (time out from COVID), taking care of yourself and organizational support for well-being.

Participants were split into breakout rooms and had a chance to speak with one another about their experiences relevant to the four topics. In one breakout room, a nurse shared how she was able to overcome the loss of her position in the hospital and open her own practice as an RN psychotherapist. Through this new position, she has been able to help clients through the challenges of the pandemic and be inspired by them. “The resilience that I see from my clients is amazing and gives me strength.”

For another nurse, she shared how working in the hospital and seeing her patients unable to receive visits from their essential care givers was saddening. “I see tremendous sadness and despair and those individuals share their losses with me. For me, that is a big challenge.”

On the topic of learning to let go, nurses shared how they are balancing their lives despite the impact the pandemic is having on everyone. “With this whole COVID thing, it’s better to just turn it all off and take a break from it,” shared one nurse who limits her time talking about COVID-19 with her family and colleagues. Another suggested turning off the news and spending time with family to get a break from reality.

When it came to the topic of self-care, many shared how it was important to spend time meditating and finding a way to say no. “I’m on call so often, it’s just a matter of saying no sometimes.”

Others mentioned strategies such as meditation, boxed breathing, singing a song, or reading funny jokes and positive messages. “It can be a mantra (or) some positive message you can keep in mind for the day.”

For organizational support, nurses said one of the most helpful ways to support staff is by giving them the ability to vent and freely talk about their frustrations. “Giving staff the ability to vent is a huge need.” Others noted that their organization has led the way by providing yoga classes, nutritional classes or mental-health related webinars to help with emotional and well-being support.

Despite the many challenges COVID-19 has brought, a majority of participants shared at the end that these forums have become a supportive environment for them to talk about their concerns and thoughts. Many shared they look forward to attending another one. “Let’s continue to hold hearts and hands and learn together how we can support one another,” said Grinspun.

RNAO invites all nurses to join us for our next webinar on March 3, 2021 at 2:30 p.m. (Registration to open soon).

 

Are you struggling with substance use and/or mental illness?

On Jan. 29, 2019, RNAO along with the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO), the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) and the Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario (RPNAO) launched the Nurses’ Health Program to help support nurses experiencing mental health and/or substance use disorders. The program is a voluntary, bilingual and confidential program that offers nurses access to resources, a dedicated case manager, comprehensive assessment, an individualized support and treatment plan, and monitoring. It is available to all nurse practitioners, registered nurses and registered practical nurses practising in Ontario. The program is modelled on similar ones used by other regulated health professions across the province. To learn more about the program, please see online.

For more mental health resources, please see RNAO’s webpage dedicated to psychosocial support during the pandemic.

 

 

RNAO work and well-being survey

The survey deadline has been extended to 4 p.m. ET on Feb. 22, 2021.

In an effort to understand the impact of COVID-19 on your work and well-being and the best ways we can continue to support you and Ontario’s nursing community, RNAO has created a short survey. If you are an RN, NP or nursing student in Ontario, please complete this 15-minute survey. Your participation will allow RNAO to better understand how this pandemic has changed your work, your attitude to work and your future in nursing, and inform our policy and advocacy now and into the future. It will also allow us to capture trends and themes across health-care sectors and settings that may inform our "Join the Conversation" open forum series for nurses to share how they are feeling and coping during COVID-19.

All responses will remain anonymous and your privacy protected.

We thank you in advance for sharing your experiences and views with us at your earliest convenience.

Go to the survey here.

 

POLICY UPDATES FOR ALL TO ACT ON & MUST JOIN EVENTS – OPEN TO ALL

 

Action alert: What’s the plan, premier?

With vaccinations rolling out in jurisdictions around the world, we entered 2021 with a glimmer of hope. But our vaccination rollout here in Ontario has stumbled out of the gate. With the urgency for a large-scale vaccination rollout increasing, we are left to ask, “What’s the plan, premier?” 

Join us in putting the question to Premier Ford!

We have asked the premier to put vaccination planning in the hands of public health and its rollout in the hands of the thousands of nurses, physicians and pharmacists working in community care across this province. It is an easy and efficient way to accelerate the rollout and ensure that no vaccines are left sitting in the fridge. 

We have asked the premier to prioritize the vaccination of vulnerable populations in our communities. It is seniors – 60 years old and up – who are most vulnerable to dying from COVID-19. Vaccinating people experiencing homelessness must also be a priority.   

We have asked Premier Ford to ensure we don’t give the virus a chance to spread, especially given its new variants. For this we have asked the Ford government to wait for three weeks after schools reopen, before relaxing public health measures. 

This year has already felt like a long year. We need a precise and bold plan to save lives, to mitigate hardship and to bring this pandemic to an end. Join us! Ask the premier, “What’s the plan?”

Sign our Action Alert here and make your voice heard!

Copies are automatically sent to the following:

  • Hon. Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario
  • Hon. Christine Elliott, Deputy Leader and Minister of Health
  • Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition 
  • France Gelinas, Health Critic, MPP 
  • Steven Del Duca, Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party
  • John Fraser, MPP
  • Mike Schreiner, MPP

Sign the Action Alert here

 

 

RNAO-LAP® Webinar: Legal Issues in Nursing Practice Related to COVID-19

Feb 23, 2021, 12:00pm - 1:30pm

Nurses in Ontario continue to battle an unprecedented public health crisis with the COVID-19 pandemic. We invite you to join LAP lawyer Jane Letton and LAP Administrator Mara Haase, as they discuss legal issues in nursing practice related to COVID-19.

During this presentation, participants will learn about:

  • rights and obligations under employment law;
  • professional standards and accountabilities; and
  • directives related to COVID-19.

Presenters:

  • Jane Letton, lawyer, Ryder Wright Blair &  Holmes LLP
  • Mara Haase, RNAO’s LAP Administrator 

To register go here.

 

Register for February 25, virtual Queen’s Park Day – open only to RNAO members

Registration is open for Queen's Park Day on Thursday, February 25, 3:30 to 7:30 pm. The virtual event will feature remarks by Premier Doug Ford, Minister of Health Christine Elliott, Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton, Official opposition and NDP leader Andrea Horwath, Liberal Party leader Steven Del Duca, and Green Party leader Mike Schreiner.

The agenda will also feature the release of Vision for Tomorrow: The Nurse Practitioner Task Force Report. You can register for the event here.

 

MOH EOC Situational Report

We are posting each day the Daily Situational Reports from Ontario's MOH EOC at RNAO’s website. That way, you can access the Ministry’s guidance at any time.

For a more detailed Ontario epidemiological summary from Public Health Ontario, you can always go here.

Here is a segment from the Situation Report #370 for February 19 (no report on February 20):

Case count as of February 19, 2021 / Nombre de cas le 19 fevrier 2021

Area / Région

Case count / Nombre de cas

Change from yesterday / Changement par rapport à hier

Deaths / Décès

Change from yesterday / Changement par rapport à hier

Canada*

837 497

+ 3 315

21 498

+  63

Ontario**

290 771

+ 1 150

6 820

+  47

Update:

  • Stay-at-Home Order Extended in Toronto and Peel Public Health Regions Along with North Bay-Parry Sound. In consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and the local medical officers of health, the Ontario government is maintaining the shutdown, the Stay-at-Home order and all existing public health and workplace safety measures for an additional two weeks in the Toronto and Peel Public Health Regions, along with the North Bay-Parry Sound District. The York Public Health Region will transition out of the shutdown and into the revised and strengthened COVID-19 Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open.  

 

Staying in touch          

Keeping in touch is now more important than ever. Feeling that you are part of a community and that we have your back will help you get through this challenging time. We are also eager to hear from you how we can best support you. Send to us your questions, comments, and challenges. Feel free to also recommend ideas for future webinars. Send these to me at dgrinspun@rnao.ca and copy my executive assistant, Peta-Gay (PG) Batten email: pgbatten@rnao.ca. RNAO’s Board of Directors and our entire staff want you to know: WE ARE HERE FOR YOU!

Thank you all for being there for our communities – everywhere and in all roles! Together, in solidarity, we are stronger and more resilient. These continue to be tough times and we have to reach out to one another in solidarity! Our government, the public and indeed all of us as health professionals – must also keep focused. While the vaccine is hugely important, the immediate target is fighting the spread of the virus to preserve lives. To everyone and most especially our colleagues working in the front lines here at home and in countries around the world hit hard by evil COVID-19 – THANK YOU, and please take care of yourselves and know that RNAO always stand by you!

As we have said before, the silver lining of COVID-19:  Coming together and working as one people – for the good of all!

Doris Grinspun, RN,MSN, PhD, LLD(hon), Dr(hc), FAAN, FCAN, O.ONT
Chief Executive Officer, RNAO

 

RECENT BLOG ITEMS:

18 Feb - Anti-Black racism and discrimination in nursing: The power of mentorship in nursing education – go here.

13 Feb - RNAO’s letter to the premier on the vaccine rollout and the current context – go here.

6 Feb - Use community care providers to ramp up vaccinations! – go here.

6 Feb - RNAO’s continuing media profile: The January reportgo here.

30 Jan - The PrOTCT plan for nurses: Counseling vaccine hesitant patients & colleaguesgo here.

30 Jan - Please sign action alert urging Premier Ford to suffocate COVID-19, NOW!go here.

23 Jan - Mitigating the spread in Toronto shelter settingsgo here.

23 Jan - Home care nurses are #ReadyToVaccinatego here.

23 Jan - Hurtful comments about law enforcementgo here.

15 Jan - The escalating catastrophe of the COVID-19 second wave in Ontariogo here.

15 Jan - Progress in vaccine distribution: Updates, issues and concernsgo here.

8 Jan - RNAO raises its voice in the media: Media coverage in December 2020go here.

8 Jan - A practicum experience at RNAOgo here.

8 Jan - RNCareers: Help during the holidays and help for next phases of this pandemicgo here.

29 Dec - Public health nurses in schoolsgo here.

29 Dec - Government failing Ontarians as virus runs rampant and endangers livesgo here.

29 Dec - We need your help in addressing urgent staffing needs in health facilitiesgo here.

29 Dec - Best wishes for the holidaygo here.

18 Dec - Providing compassionate nursing care in an age of artificial intelligencego here.

18 Dec - RNAO continues to express grave concern regarding the second wavego here.

18 Dec - Long-term care staffing plan lacks urgency and legislated actiongo here.

11 Dec - RNAO gravely concerned about the second pandemic wavego here.

11 Dec - Health organizations plead for Ontarians to celebrate holiday season safelygo here.

4 Dec - Continuing the conversation: Mobilizing collective action for LTC reformgo here.

4 Dec - Nurses urge dedicated funding for infection prevention and control in LTCgo here.

27 Nov - RNAO, once again, plays major role in the media during Novembergo here.

27 Nov - COVID-19 in long-term care: A nurse’s witness statementgo here.

20 Nov - Government’s measures too late and insufficient; calling for a COVID-Zero strategygo here.

13 Nov - Mobilizing collective action for long-term care reform in Canadago here.

13 Nov - RNAO’s media conference to address the crisis in long-term care go here.

6 Nov - Fall 2020 provincial budget once again leaves vulnerable populations to fend for themselvesgo here.

6 Nov - Elections in the US: A path to healing and respect for sciencego here.

30 Oct - 2S-LGBTQ+ Seniors: Our Existence is Our Resistance!go here.

23 Oct - Responding to the second wave of COVID-19: RNAO continues to speak outgo here.

16 Oct - RNAO advocates for national long-term care standards in Canadago here.

16 Oct - Reta’s Story  (a contribution of Judy Smith, Reta’s daughter-in-law)go here.

9 Oct - RNAO relieved that Premier Ford engages late, but essential, actiongo here.

9 Oct - Patient-centred-care – the dream and the realitygo here.

2 Oct - RNAO urges stricter measures to combat rapidly rising number of COVID-19 infectionsgo here.

25 Sept - Nurses say throne speech advances A Just Recovery for Allgo here.

18 Sept - Is Your Hospital Using Blood Wisely?go here.

18 Sept - RNAO calls to Delay Action on CNO Council Decision to Expand RPN Scopego here.

11 Sept - International Overdose Awareness Day: Statement from RNAOgo here.

11 Sept - RNAO joins global movement: A Just Recovery for Allgo here.

We have posted earlier ones in my blog here. I invite you to take a look.

 

Information Resources

Public Health Ontario maintains an excellent resource site on materials on COVID-19. This is an essential resource for Ontario health providers. 

Ontario’s health provider website is updated regularly with useful resources.

Ontario’s public website on the COVID-19 is there to inform the general public – encourage your family and friends to access this public website. The WHO has provided an excellent link for you to share with members of the public here.

Please promote the use of Ontario’s COVID-19 self-assessment tool: It also has a guide where to seek care, if necessary. Its use will provide the province with real-time data on the number and geography of users who are told to seek care, self-isolate or to monitor for symptoms. Data will inform Ontario's ongoing response to keep individuals and families safe.

Health Canada's website provides the best information capturing all of Canada. It contains an outbreak update, Canada's response to the virus, travel advice, symptoms and treatment, and resources for health professionals.

The World Health Organization plays a central role in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. See here and here.

You can find up-to-date global numbers in Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by Johns Hopkins CSSE.

 

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