Alberta’s Health Care System and the Licensed Practical Nurse

The Alberta health care system has been in a state of turmoil and change for some time now, with regional boards superseded by the new Super Board, threats of bed closures, various labour issues, a Cabinet shuffle, the Budget, and a new Minister who is reversing many prior policy positions, all adding to the turbulence.

The CLPNA has been looking at this situation and learning from it. We have also been wondering what this confusion is doing to the public’s perceptions of what they want from professional nursing in Alberta. So we commissioned Cambridge Strategies Inc. to do a survey of Albertans and CLPNA members to get some answers. The conjoint survey was designed to get information, insight and clarity on what values Albertans, and LPNs, see as most important for driving and guiding the delivery of professional nursing care in the province.

What we found was very interesting and especially helpful for LPNs and our work in the health care system. The most wonderful finding was that the most important value drivers that define professional nursing care for Albertans and LPNs are exactly the same. What Albertans told us was they expected nurses to be skilled, knowledgeable, caring/compassionate, thorough, responsible, and ethical. Those are the core professional and personal values LPNs live by every day and were also confirmed in the survey results completed by our members.

Over 1400 CLPNA members completed the survey and we found that LPNs have the exact same values, and in the exact same order of priority as the general public. That value and expectation alignment with our members and the public is a key for our members asserting our place and purpose in the future of health care delivery in Alberta. It shows us how we can be better recognized for who we are professionally and how we help patients and their families when in the system.

Another key survey finding is the pride that LPNs have in their work and how actively engaged we are in our professional lives. We found that 72% of LPNs see themselves as actively engaged in their profession. Even with all the uncertainty and doubt in the future direction of the Alberta health care system 66% of LPNs are telling others “great things about being an LPN.” There are 67% of us who “have intense desires to remain in nursing.” What is even more dramatic is 89% of LPNs surveyed “are committed to using my full education and skills” and 91% believe our “actions are improving health care for patients.” We are proud, professional nurses who know we make a difference in the lives of our patients

On the other side of the coin is the fact that only 33% of LPNs feel valued as a nurse in Alberta. Only 39% of us think we are more valued now by our employers than three years ago. Only 53% of LPNs believe their employers make full use of the skills of LPNs. There is obviously room for improvement in the health care system. Employers must make more and better use the professional skill, training and knowledge of LPNs, and likely other members of the health care team as well.

In conclusion, the survey shows that we have very good, qualified, skilled, caring, and compassionate people working as LPNs. But we are working in an unstable system fraught with uncertainty that undervalues our capacity and role. On the other hand, the public and LPNs are totally aligned with a common value set about what professional nursing care needs to be. What our profession has is a communications challenge.

Ken Chapman of Cambridge Strategies will speak in greater detail on the survey results at Spring Conference on April 8, 2010. He will share insights on the survey results and their implications. He will show how LPNs can use the survey to serve and satisfy expectations of Albertans around qualities of professional nursing care. He will also share his ideas on what LPNs can do to further gain the respect and recognition our profession deserves from the powers-that-be and the public for our contribution to high quality professional nursing care in Alberta.

The next steps to achieving those goals are up to all of us. It is not just the CLPNA or individual members working in isolation that will advance the appreciation and understanding of the role of LPNs in the health care system. The CLPNA will be designing, developing, and delivering a communications strategy to take the message and power of our engaged, caring, compassionate, and skilled LPN members to some key target audiences. So stay tuned and keep regularly connected to the CLPNA website (www.clpna.com), and this Blog for more information.

Linda Stanger
Executive Director
CLPNA

7 Responses to “Alberta’s Health Care System and the Licensed Practical Nurse”

  1. After reading this rebuttle, I have to agree with many areas outlined in this blog. I have been an LPN for 6 years now and have loved almost every bit of it! In the past few years, our role as LPN’s has durastically changed, for better and worse. Our daily responcabilities have dramatically increased, our pay has become slightly better but, our due respect is lacking. I have personally felt, on more than one occassion, belittled by a fellow nurse. I however have taken it upon myself to become a more knowledgable and compassionate sponge of a nurse. Throughout my few years of experience I have worked in long term care, medical and surgical units, clinic and emergency settings. I was also involved in the mass H1N1 immunization for Southern Alberta and have now taken a new adventure of educating aspiring LPN’s through the 18 month diploma course. I personally attemt to instill positive, team oriented attitudes in my students towards all members of the healthcare team. I was recently in a clinical setting with 7 PN students. We worked opposite shifts of the RN students one day a week for 7 weeks. I was very disappointed when I heard comments of ‘inadequancy’ coming from the RN students in regards to my PN students. This was disapointing as there are so many of us who strive to work as a team and use eachothers skills and atributes to learn from. It’s unfortunate that the few mis-informed,poor attitudes seem to get more attention than what we as nurses have worked so hard to accomplish, regardless of our ‘letters’ prior to the word ‘nurse’. I am proud to be a nurse. I am proud to have a continuing education and be a constant advocate for both current, and future LPN’s and RN’s alike. We have all chosen this career and life for a reason. Those who are in it for the good of the people who need us, will be ultimately satisfied with what they can offer, regardless of the words preceding ‘Nurse’.

  2. My comment comes comes from someone who has been an L.P.N. since 1972. It was a time where we were appreciated and a condescending attitude from our R.N. peers was a rarity. Here we are in 2010 with an expanded education that equals the past 2 year R.N. program and we receive less respect for our positions from our R.N.peers and other health professionals than we ever before. Quite frankly,I feel this becomes instilled by R.N. instructors as even R.N. students are given the impression that L.P.N.’s are not qualified to give adequate and often superior nursing care. I received this information from my niece who has just graduated from the uah nursing program who is a very reliable source that states as students they were always being advised that L.P.N..s were not sufficiently educated to deliver adequate nursing care. No wonder the derogatory attitude towards L.P.N.s exist. My experience has been that the difference in delivering good nursing care is more in our attitude and approach and work ethic than anything else because the scope of education and practice has expanded so much. Unfortunately,arrogance from some of our R.N. peers remains a despicable attitude.

  3. I WORK IN ACUTE CARE. WE HAVE ON OCCASION PN AND NURSING STUDENTS. BOTH STUDENTS HAVE TO RESEARCH PATIENT ASSIGNMENT(S). BOTH HAVE TO FOLLOW PROTOCOL PER SCHOOL AND HOSPITAL. BOTH DELIVER KNOWLEDGE, COMPASSION/CARING ATTITUDE, ETHICAL, RESPONSIBLE PRACTICE. BOTH ARE GUIDED BY THEIR INSTRUCTOR(IF AROUND AND KNOWLEDGEABLE), RN AND LPN. AFTER GRADUATION, EACH MUST DELIVER SAME PRACTICE OF CARING, KNOWLEDGE, COMPASSION, SAFETY ETC TO THEIR PATIENT ACCORDING TO THEIR SCOPE OF PRACTICE PER HOSPITAL OR INSTITUTION POLICY. THE PATIENT THANKS EACH NURSE FOR THE CARE THEY HAVE RECEIVED. VERY OFTEN THE PATIENT DOES NOT ASK IF NURSE IS RN OR LPN. WHAT THE PATIENT IS CONCERNED WITH IS THE NURSE BEING KNOWLEDGEABLE, CARING, COMPASSIONATE, ACCESSABLE, CAPABLE,PROFFESSIONAL. IN TODAY’S HEALTH CARE SYSTEM THERE IS ROOM FOR ALL OF US. LET US STOP SEPARATING BUT INSTEAD WORK TOGETHER. THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM WILL FUNCTION BETTER IF WE STOP BICKERING. RESEARCHERS, STATISTIANS, EDUCATORS SHOULD SPEND ONE WEEK TO ONE MONTH AT LEAST IN DIFFERENT AREAS OF HOSPITAL AND OR INSTITUTIONS AND SEE WHAT EACH CLASSIFICATION DO. MAYBE THEY WILL HAVE A BETTER UNDERSTANDING WHEN THEY SEE FOR THEMSELVES. POLITICIANS SHOULD ALSO DO THE SAME. I HAVE BEEN AN LPN SINCE 1979 AND I AM VERY PROUD TO BE ONE.

  4. The most important thing for us to do as a nurse (RN/LPN) and as a provider to a patient needs, we have to be as one, as a team and most of all, to provide the best we can as a nurse provider. No more discrimination. We have to embrace each other as ONE in a humble way,so we can built a strong working relations as (RN/LPN) a nurse. This is our world as a nurse to be as one. We have to respect, teach and help each other to accomplice our goal as a nurse to reach out the needs of our patients.

  5. I have been an LPN for 16 years, and the scope of LPN practice have broadened dramatically since. One of the most important thing for the RN/LPN to practice is respect for each other and their role within the health care system, and also to remember that the client is the most important person within the system. There is nothing worse than to hear another professional put the other down (e.g. oh, thats just an LPN.) As nurses we are professional within our scope of practice and as professionals we shine within our scope, because we are equipped with knowledge and skills to give good quality care shich enhances and promote the best quality of life for those we serve and care for. Most of us when we leave a client’s room you know that an LPN have been there, because as nurses we are thorough, compassionate, caring, and ethical. I am very proud to be an LPN, we have moved from just the bedside nurse to full scope of practice in our profession. We are equipped, willing, and ready to continue to move forward, and the government should recognize that also.

  6. I have just finished reading the previous replies and unfortunately it seems that all disciplines need to respect each other and work together. There is no ‘I’ in team. The LPN program is now a 2 year diploma program the same that the majority of RN’s currently hold. During the past 25 years I have worked in acute care, LTC, palliative care and am now teaching the HCA program. I have worked both in BC and Alberta. Alberta does allow LPNS to work to their scope of practice. BC is still following the lead of Alberta and broadening the scopes for LPNS in BC.
    All of us are ‘nurses’ and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Not to do so is a form of ‘bullying’. The letters behind one’s name does not constitute your intelligence but a proud profession of nursing. It is high time to quit the bickering, bullying and get on with the professionalism of our chosen careers. We entered this career choice to help people and to care for them. Somewhere along the line the caring for one and another seems to have vanished. There will always be those individuals out there who have to feel they are superior to others and try to make certain that those around them are aware that they do indeed feel superior. The time has come to ensure that quality care is given to all of our patients, clients, residents by all of us who are qualified to do so. Let us support all disciplines and work as a team.
    Respect and dignity goes an exceptionally long way for ensuring harmony in the workplace. If all are valued and respected it reflects on all that we do. Keep up the excellent job done by all of our nurses.