Nurses’ Health Program- ONA advocates for members' mental health

February 2, 2018

Following on the footsteps of another successful "Bell Let's Talk" day, one of the largest, most concerted organizational campaigns around social issues that has resulted in $86.5 million donated to mental health initiatives, I wanted to update members on our own initiative addressing the mental health not only of ONA members but of all nurses across Ontario.

ONA remains committed to the creation and launch of a new Nurses’ Health Program that will support nurses suffering from mental health and substance use disorders. ONA has long fought for the creation of such a program and is pleased that we can do so in conjunction with other lead nursing organizations. The stigma of addiction is especially daunting for those in health-care who are focused on the health care needs of others and not so much themselves. As our hard fought victory to have nurses included in PTSD legislation shows, our nurses are susceptible to anxiety, stress, illness, and addiction – just like everyone else. Nurses deserve an opportunity – just like physicians in Ontario and other health care professionals - to seek treatment anonymously, confidentially and voluntarily to protect their professional reputation, practice and career status.

This represents yet another huge step forward in working with key nursing stakeholders in treating and supporting the recovery of nurses who have addiction and mental health issues with compassion and respect. There is no question that the high-pressure environments in which nurses are working today may contribute to mental health and addiction issues. Under-staffing adds great stress and strain on professionals who often put patient care before self-care. While the Nurse Health Program is in development stages, our goal is that the program will be up and running in late 2018.

The Ontario Nurses' Association will continue to fight to alleviate the workplace issues that contribute to the difficult work environments that are prevalent in health care today. We will continue to provide you with updates.

In solidarity,

Vicki McKenna, RN