Charting our course for 2020

May / June 2018   Comments

Following a successful National Nursing Week, a celebration of nurses’ contributions to the health and wellness of Canadians, CNA is abuzz with anticipation for the event in 2020 — marking the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth.

To celebrate that historic moment, CNA aims to have the major pieces of a transformed association in place, says CEO Mike Villeneuve.

The national professional voice of Canadian nursing is charting a new course. As society is aging and changing, population health needs are following suit. The way health care is being delivered is shifting — and with it the kinds of providers needed and what their scopes of practice will entail. CNA must be poised to not just effectively engage decision-makers and stakeholders but also take the lead on many important health policy agendas.

Looking back

The impetus for this change can be put into context by reflecting on CNA’s history.

The association was established in October 1908, just before the era of nursing regulation. The catalyst was the potential for joining the International Council of Nurses. Building the regulatory structures of nursing to protect the public was a major thrust of CNA’s work, in partnership with its members, during the first 20 years.

CNA thus became the home of RNs — the only regulated category of nurses at the time. It has remained that way ever since, although the association had a major role during the 1940s in promoting the education and practice of nursing assistants. This group would later become registered nursing assistants and then regulated as licensed practical nurses (known as registered practical nurses in Ontario).

CNA has always had professional nursing practice as its core business, and still does, although now that includes advanced practice and ties to many specialized practice areas. But in the earliest days, CNA was involved in much more — including regulatory policy, nursing education, workplace matters, the earliest nursing research and, of course, the public and nursing policy work that continues to define the association today.

The roles, mandates and expectations of CNA have varied widely over the past century. The organization we now know as the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing began as a department within CNA. At times it sat within CNA and at others it was external — settling finally as an independent, stand-alone association.

Similarly, over the decades, CNA undertook many activities related to the socio-economic welfare of nurses. Trade unions for nurses began to form across the country in the 1970s and 1980s, and ultimately, the organization now known as the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions claimed this space.

For the past couple of generations of nurses, CNA was home to the CRNE, the entry-to-practice exam common to every nurse in Canada (outside Quebec). Nursing regulators made a decision to discontinue using this exam, effective 2015, which ended CNA’s formal tie to the world of regulatory policy. However, CNA maintains oversight of the 21 nursing specialty exams and continues to have a strong interest in ensuring safe, competent, effective and satisfying professional nursing practice.

“What remains is CNA’s role as a professional association,” Villeneuve says. Unions, regulatory bodies and professional associations each have a distinct role: unions support the nurse and improve working conditions; regulators serve and protect the public; professional associations advance the profession and improve health. “CNA’s focus continues to be on delivering what is expected of a professional association.”

CNA today

Canadians, governments and health-system leaders have a strong, legitimate expectation of collaboration inside and outside of health care, and interprofessional care models are becoming the norm. A lack of unity and collaboration within nursing has had negative implications at the practice, organizational and systems levels. To be successful in our interprofessional collaboration, intra-professional collaboration is required.

CNA sees a strategic opportunity for nurses to bring their voices together within a united national professional association. “We envision CNA as the hub for professional nursing in Canada,” Villeneuve says.

The association is pursuing a plan to expand its membership beyond RNs and NPs by changing its membership structure to invite organizations representing licensed/registered practical nurses and registered psychiatric nurses to be jurisdictional members of the association.

“We can collectively choose to transform CNA by opening it up to new members, who can help build and sustain a robust partnership of nursing groups within one national professional association. Or we can slam shut that door and lose an opportunity for CNA to truly unite the voices of all nurses,” the CEO says.

This landmark proposal, which was unanimously supported by the CNA board of directors, is being brought to voting delegates at the annual meeting of members on June 18 in Ottawa.

New directions

Regardless of the outcome of the vote, CNA is moving full steam ahead with its transformation while remaining a strong national association with a focus on professional practice, policy and advocacy, and leadership.

A learning management system will soon be in place that will host top-notch continuing professional development courses, and an accreditation program has already been launched. Specialty certification is expanding to other nursing groups; the first step will be a new gerontological certification exam designed for the scope of practice of licensed/registered practical nurses.

“To celebrate that landmark birthday in 2020, we believe an important gift to deliver to Canadians will be a restructured, more inclusive, fiscally strong and sustainable national professional nursing association,” Villeneuve says. “We’re excited to be on our way.”

Our History Our Future
Registered nurses Nursing
Established so Canada could join the International Council of Nurses Exists to support nurses, nursing and partners to deliver better health, better care and better value for Canadians
National professional voice of RNs in Canada National and global professional voice of Canadian nursing
Broad mandate Sharper focus on professional practice, policy and advocacy, and leadership
Large team in Ottawa Smaller team in Ottawa, invited experts and scholars
Print materials, in-person meetings Digital strategies, more virtual meetings, accessible programs and services
comments powered by Disqus