NSGEU Union Matters Podcast: Allied Healthcare Professionals Week (1st week of November)
Host Mary Otto discusses NSGEU’s resolution for a week that recognizes the important work Healthcare Professionals do for Nova Scotians. Mary’s guests are fellow health care workers, Peter Perry, an Anaesthesia Assistant in Local 122 and Laura MacMillan, an Orthopaedic Technician in Local 100. Join in to hear why we need an Allied Healthcare Professionals Week!
Hi and welcome to the NSGEU podcast Union Matters. My name is Mary [Otto] and I’m going to be your host today. Today I’m really happy to have with me the board members for the Health Care Occupational Council: Peter Perry and Laura MacMillan.
PP I’m Peter Perry. I’m currently Vice-President of Local 122 Healthcare at the IWK Health Centre and I’m a member of the Occupational Council and the Board of Directors, as well as the chair of the Health Safety Environment Committee. At the IWK I’m an Anaesthesia Assistant. We are non-physician clinicians that carry out anaesthesia care plans under the direction of an anaesthesiologist.
MO Okay, so you help people breathe when they’re getting stuff done to them, right?
PP We monitor patients, we help to provide anaesthesia care, we put in breathing tubes, specialized IVs, give medications, blood products, whatever is required.
MO That’s exciting, and I think it’s one of those occupations we don’t necessarily hear a lot about, so it’s cool to hear you describe it. And how about you, Laura?
LM I am Laura MacMillan, and I am president of Local 100, which is Healthcare in mostly Central Zone, although we do have healthcare members across the province. I currently am Board member for the Healthcare Occupational Council and I am the new chair of the Women’s Issues Committee. I’m an orthopedic technologists, which is another one of those occupations that you don’t hear a whole lot about. I’m the right hand of your orthopedic surgeon. I am the person that is doing your casting, your splinting, your traction, assisting with reduction for fractures, wound care, and a whole variety of other things that need to be done. Both within clinic, on the in-patient floors, and as well as emerg. I’m also responsible for doing a lot of training for paramedics in emerg as well as staff on the floors, so that they’re aware of what to do with orthopedic patients when they arrive.
MO So if you go into orthopedics in Dartmouth General there’s a good chance they’ll see you.
MO So a little bit about me, for those of you who maybe haven’t heard the other podcasts that I’ve hosted. I am a member of Local 43 – Canadian Blood Service, where I work as a lab assistant. So what we all have in common is that we’re all allied health professionals. And that’s what we wanted to talk to you guys about today.
Coming out of convention there was a resolution that both of your locals put forward for the NSGEU to recognize and create Allied Health Professionals Week in Nova Scotia. It’s something that’s recognized elsewhere, isn’t it.
PP I absolutely is. We have done some research. Laura and I both sat on the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) Canadian Health Professionals Secretariat (CHPS), which I’m out-going and Laura still sits on. I’ll let Laura talk about some of the research we did for the upcoming celebration.
LM During our CHPS meetings we discussed allied healthcare across the country. We talk about anything from where the needs are within allied healthcare professionals to political situations. One of the big things we found was that we really feel undervalued. A lot of people don’t seem to know what we do, and it really creates an issue with morale. Part of what we discussed was how to recognize the 140 different classifications within our group. How do you have every member feel valued?
MO So CHPS is a unique body. The Healthcare Occupational Council sends two members to [the meetings] and is a part of NUPGE, which NFSGEU falls under. So you guys would meet with people from all across the country who fall under NUPGE as well.
PP As a committee of NUPGE, it’s an advocacy group that represents over 100,000 healthcare professionals across the country. We talk about issues that are common and issues we can bring back to our own components that are potentials issues within healthcare. It helps us to form a network to brainstorm and find resolutions to a lot of the challenges we have in healthcare today.
MO It seems to be common across the country that the allied health professionals seem to be the hidden people in healthcare. You interact with patients every day, but they have no idea who you are or what you do. So we wanted to throw a spot on who are members in healthcare are.
LM It’s a great way for our members and the public to have a better understanding of what makes up healthcare. Anything from physiotherapists to respiratory therapists to paramedics to our lab techs. We’ve got audiologists, speech therapists, a lot of people you wouldn’t know existed unless you actually needed that service and you had a proper introduction to them.
PP Knowing that healthcare is the number one issue within Nova Scotia and within many of the provinces and territories across Canada, it effects not only the people we serve, it also effects healthcare workers. Within the crisis, one of the professions that has gotten a lot of press has been nurses. Nurses do a great job every single day. They do a good job of advocating for themselves. One of the things I find within healthcare that doesn’t happen is that healthcare professionals don’t do as good a job of promoting themselves. Within our Occupational Council we have over 140 different professions. We often feel the stress and cruck of the workload, but often don’t get the same publicity. We want our members to feel like they’re valued. We want the public to know that there are hidden heroes behind the scenes. That if they don’t get the proper diagnostic testing, the proper diagnosis, rehabilitation services, and other frontline services we provide, oftentimes patients don’t get treated by doctors and nurses. So it’s to highlight what we do.
LM One of the things is the issue of retention. There’s a lot of areas within allied healthcare where they aren’t able to fill the positions. When you’re running your labs 24 hours a day and people are working overtime because you’re not able to have your lab tech positions filled, it really creates a huge deficit within healthcare. The doctors can’t do their job without a proper diagnosis and without the lab results. It’s one are where there’s a huge shortage as well as other areas around the province.
MO I think we can all agree that all our members within healthcare are an integral part and keep it going. They are stressed and they do deserve to be recognized and celebrated. And that’s why your locals brought it forward to convention to have the week recognized. Another aspect of it is to lobby Nova Scotia to have it recognized similar to the way it is in other provinces.
PP As Laura and I research the topic we found there is a variety of ways healthcare professionals are recognized. Universally across North America, typically the first week of November, certainly within the United States, but some provinces as well recognize healthcare professionals week or allied healthcare professionals week. Se when we put forward the resolution we wanted to be consistent with that, as well, we looked at certain areas within Canada. Manitoba seems to have a model we want to follow. They recognize it through their provincial unions, but is actually in law in Manitoba that the first week of November is celebrated.
MO I think it’s actually in May, there.
PP Yes, sorry it is.
MO It is provincially recognized, which is important. So, we [the NSGEU] decided to recognize that we do need to be celebrated and to be celebrated before it’s provincially recognized, which is why we’re going ahead with it for the first week of November. I’m the chair of the Political Action Committee and I think we’re going to be tasked with lobbying to get it provincially recognized. In the mean time, it is important to celebrate these members. So how are you going to be celebrating them?
LM It’s a little bit more complicated within the two separate health bodies: IWK and NSHA. Within the NSHA we have the NSGEU, but also CUPE and Unifor. Out NSGEU members will be the ones we’re celebrating, as well as encompassing their neighbours, which are CUPE and Unifor.
On November 1st we’ll start with a celebration cake as well as an official recognition of the week with posters and information throughout the hospitals in a variety of areas. We’ll be paying some site visits. Meeting our members. And making the public aware of what our members do.
PP And, since this is a newly passed resolution, to meet the deadline it will be a scaled down version, with bigger and better to come. What’s important to remember is healthcare professionals are not only institutional, it involves many people within the community and private sector. It involves people in mental health and addiction and people that work every day in the community and in private industry. What we want to do is be all inclusive and make sure everyone gets recognition for the role we play in the well being of Nova Scotians.
MO Yes, more important than cake is actually being recognized and saying thank you for doing the job, we recognize you. We see the work you do, even though it doesn’t feel like it. I know working in a 24 hour behind-the-scenes profession, sometimes you don’t get the cake. You’re not in the public eye. The thanks is really the biggest thing we want.
PP This year we want to make a bit of a splash. To put it out there and on the map. Going forward, we want to work on an all-inclusive plan.
MO So if someone has an idea they want to bring forward on this, maybe they can go to their local meeting and bring it up to their occupational council and they can bring it to the occupational council meeting.
LM That would be the perfect way to get your ideas heard. Next year we’re hoping that we’ll have the provincial proclamation and we’ll be able to really take the time and effort and really launch the allied healthcare professionals week. Time was short this time. We’re doing the best we can to make sure it doesn’t get by-passed this year.
MO So is there any message you have for the members in your locals?
LM The big thing is, you’re not forgotten. We know you. We love you. The public knows you. They may not know your name or what your designation is yet, but they will.
PP I think it’s really important to recognize that this is not going to overshadow any other profession that already celebrates. Those celebrations will still go on. This is more of an all inclusive celebration to recognize everybody, including the smaller professions that have just as big an impact on healthcare. Part of the reason we chose the slogan “Hidden Heroes of healthcare” is it lets people know there are people behind the scenes that are doing diagnostics and rehabilitation services and frontline care. They are not always recognized by the public. This will highlight what people do behind the scenes.
MO It’s so interesting what our members do. There are occupations I’ve never heard of, and I work in healthcare. And then I hear a member talking about the work they do and think “That is the coolest thing.”
LM It really is. And it’s amazing when you meet someone who’s the only one doing that work in the province, which means you’re never going to get a recognized week, because you don’t have anyone to lobby for it. So you feel left out or excluded. One of our big things is inclusion, so that everyone feels included and valued. Having a week where we value everyone within the group, the 140 designations, in public and in private was important to us.
MO It’s so important. I think all of us believe every member is equally important. I hope these podcasts highlights some of those members. If you’re listening to this and know of a really unique occupation that needs to be highlighted, get in touch with Communications at NSGEU and maybe we can talk about it. I want to thank you for coming on and talking about this, so that’s a million for coming in.
PP Thank you very much. We appreciate the work you put in. You’re doing a great job.
MO Thank you very much.
LM Thanks for having us Mary, we really appreciate it.
MO Thank you for listening and make sure you listen to next podcast.
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